Poor Ventilation Vs. Dept. Of Justice (Part II)

South Africa. Knysna Department of Justice employee Denise Burmeister will take her case of constructive dismissal to the Labour Court after the department this week informed a conciliation hearing that it rejected her claim outright, ruling out any further attempts to settle.

We earlier reported here about this case.

Burmeister, 39, a Justice Department employee for 19 years before she quit in June, claimed she developed chronic sinusitis due to poor ventilation in the cash hall of the Knysna court complex where she worked.

In 2006 she had to undergo nasal surgery to treat the problem, and was refused extended sick leave advised by her doctor to recover from the operation. She said she also had to return to work in the cash hall without any improvement to the ventilation system.

She claimed constructive dismissal on the grounds that her workplace was making her ill and that there was no attempt on the part of her employer to improve the unhealthy working environment, forcing her to resign.

She has the support of two doctors and the intervention of the department of labour which warned the department of contraventions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act at the Knysna courts last year.

It advised the justice department to rectify the problem, partly caused by windows that "could hardly open" because burglar bars had been fitted on the outside. Nothing was apparently done until 18 months later in July this year, when the department of labour ordered the justice department to close the cash hall until a proper air conditioning system was installed.

Reports from the two doctors point to a direct link between Burmeister‘s condition and the ventilation problem at her workplace.

"This is not the end of it. Denise has a strong case. She was forced to choose between either her health or her salary. We are taking this to the Labour Court," Burmeister‘s attorney, Leonie Baynes, said.

Source: The Herald
By: Neil Oelofse

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