Landmark ruling – criminal records no longer a hiring barrier


Jonathan Goldberg | Chairman | Global Business Solutions | mail me | 

In a recent landmark ruling, the Labour Court’s decision in the case of Connor v Lexisnexis (Pty) Ltd (P18/24) [2024] ZALCPE 11 sheds light on the evolving stance towards employing individuals with a criminal record.

The court’s acceptance of the employee’s claim for unfair discrimination underscores a fundamental shift in perspective, advocating for fairness and inclusivity in the workplace.

Criminal history irrelevant?

The employee, seeking to compel the employer to honour its original offer of employment, challenged the retraction of the offer upon the discovery of his criminal history. Invoking various provisions of labour law, the employee claimed unfair dismissal, discrimination, and contract repudiation.

The court, finding the criminal history irrelevant to the job requirements, ordered the employer to reinstate the original employment offer, albeit with a modification to reflect the time that had elapsed.

The importance of evaluating the relevance of a candidate’s criminal history to the job at hand is stressed. Gone are the days when a blanket ban on hiring individuals with a criminal record was considered acceptable. Today, we recognise the need for a more nuanced approach that prioritises fairness and merit.

The significance of assessing the nature of the offence in relation to the job applied for is emphasised. While certain convictions may be relevant to specific roles, many others are not. For instance, a youthful indiscretion like smoking marijuana decades ago should not hinder someone’s prospects in unrelated fields.

Transparency & accountability in recruitment processes

The ruling highlights the imperative for employers to adopt a discerning approach to hiring practices, considering individual circumstances and the potential for rehabilitation. By solely focusing on an applicant’s criminal record without considering its relevance to the job, employers risk perpetuating systemic discrimination and denying individuals the opportunity to rebuild their lives.

I advocate for greater transparency and accountability in recruitment processes. Employers must be prepared to justify any decision to exclude candidates based on their criminal history. This not only promotes fairness but also fosters trust and confidence in the hiring process.

The ruling in Connor v Lexisnexis (Pty) Ltd prompts employers to reconsider their approach to hiring individuals with a criminal record. By prioritising fairness, relevance, and inclusivity, we can build a workforce that reflects the values of justice and equality. A criminal record should not be a barrier to employment, but rather an opportunity for redemption and second chances.



  1. I recently applied for a job in a company of my dreams in Northern cape mines due to my criminal record I was told that my application was unsuccessful even though I declared my status.I have been working in the mining industry my entire life there’s no job I know other than miningmI so wish companies could stop this victimization it’s painful I left my previous employer after having passed all the tests I was exposed to as well as the medical fitness test.I am now at the verge of losing my car as a result of being behind with my car installment.


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