Garry Hertzberg, practising attorney at Dewey Hertzberg Levy and the host of The Laws of Life with Garry Hertzberg on Cliffcentral.com writes:
This weekend I was at the supermarket and with it being payday weekend, it was really busy.
Buying groceries is not pleasant at the best of times but it really was manic and the store seemed to be understaffed.
While waiting in the checkout line, we noticed that there was no till packer at the till. The man in front of me started complaining loudly and asked why, on such a busy day, there was no one doing this. The cashier explained that the packer had gone to clean up pool acid which had been spilt in one of the aisles. This man went on and on, moaning about the fact that there should be cleaners for cleaning and till packers for packing.
For starters, it’s important that the store deals with spillages as quickly as possible and secondly, it’s not very difficult to pack your own grocery bags at the checkout, this is done all around the world and South Africa is the exception when it comes to this. What struck me was that the man continued whinging that the packer should be packing and not cleaning floors.
What would have happened to our packer if he had refused to clean up the chemical spill because ‘it’s not in my job description so I won’t do it’.
Generally, if the employee is able to do the task, and it’s a reasonable and lawful request then the employer is entitled to expect that it be done. The courts have said it would only be unfair if the request is so dramatic that the employee takes on a completely different job.
In the case of a till packer, it’s very likely that their contracts include a catch-all job description such as ‘any other reasonable task which may be required from time to time’. These clauses are not unfair and most employment contracts should have them. Even if it wasn’t there, the packer would probably have faced disciplinary action for refusing to clean the spill.
The buffoon in the checkout aisle should take a page from the packer’s book and take on the extra responsibility of packing his own bags.
Edited by Beryl Knipe