Victimisation in the workplace

Victimisation in the workplace

Victimisation in the workplace

Over three quarters of South African employees indicate that they have been on the receiving end of victimising behaviour at work.

This while the Labour Relations Act safeguards the rights of employees and bestows a duty on the employer to protect employees against harassment and other unacceptable behaviour. Arm yourself with knowledge, and call on the law to stop any such behaviour against you.

Definition of victimisation

A broad definition of victimisation is “to punish or discriminate against selectively or unfairly”.

The Labour Relations Act (LRA) of 1995 does not define victimisation in the workplace exactly but deals with it rather more broadly by legislating unfair practices such as unfair discrimination, forced resignations and unfair dismissals.

Dr Ivan Israelstam, a labour expert, defines workplace victimisation as “targeted mistreatment carried out for a specific reason”. He quotes the example of an employer overloading one of its employees with work in order to force him or her to resign, which would be seen as victimisation under the LRA.

More examples of victimisation may include the following:

  • Preventing employees from joining trade unions
  • Attempting to bribe employees or prejudicing them to avoid or halt lawful trade union activity
  • Unfair promotion, demotion, discipline or training of an employee
  • Swearing or use of vulgar or abusive language
  • Picking on an employee
  • Spreading malicious rumours
  • Insulting or degrading an employee
  • Unfair discrimination or harassment.


If you find yourself in a situation where you feel you are being victimised, do as follows:

  • Keep notes of all incidents. Include the date, the time, the nature of the incident and also the names of any witnesses to the incident
  • Confront the person, making a formal demand that the perpetrator stop all unacceptable behaviour. Confrontation can be done through management, the EWP and/or with the help of a union representative
  • In the formal demand, state that if the perpetrator does not cease the victimising behaviour, the victim will refer the matter to the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA)
  • Also state that if a hearing at the CCMA fails to stop the unacceptable behaviour, the matter will be taken to the Labour Court.