By now most IR practitioners are familiar with the case of Harmse & Rainbow Farms (Pty) Ltd. In this matter the employee was one of 15 who had access or potential access to the missing equipment. When offered an exculpatory polygraph examination, Mr Harmse at first declined then changed his mind and did complete the test which he was the only person to fail. When offered another examination which could have led to his total pardon, he declined the opportunity and was then dismissed for reasons of breach of trust.
The employer then dismissed him on the basis of not theft, but breach of trust relationship. This position and decision of the employer were upheld by the CCMA. Furthermore it was noted that:
Although the Lower Court has been slow to admit polygraph evidence and the High Court has yet to rule on the admissibility of polygraph results and establish what weight should be placed upon it, the CCMA is acknowledging it as a forensic tool.
The case of Harmse vs. Rainbow Farms is a very important precedent in the South African labor law environment. It is a finding that opens the door for business to utilize the full abilities of polygraph technology within the workplace in a responsible and sensible manner. Unfortunately, like with all good decisions it may also have certain negative consequences. The door has been opened a little bit wider for untrained and unaccredited persons to conduct business into using their results as the basis of decision making. This may result in serious violations of the fundamental rights of employees and it may also put organizations at a definite risk of litigation. We, however must not be discouraged by the negative and we must rather focus on the positive impact the polygraph can bring in your organization.
Make sure you deal with a accredited Examiner at all times.