An important case at the labour court in Johannesburg offers a sobering message to litigants: though the labour courts do not generally award costs against employees, they have the discretion to do so. And they will penalise employees who bring "frivolous and vexatious" litigation against their employers, particularly where an employee unreasonably refuses an open settlement offer. The case, heard by labour court judge Graham Moshoana, concerned a dispute between Nkgadimang Kabe and Nedbank. Formerly employed as the bank’s "assistant relationship governance and compliance officer", Kabe alleged that Nedbank "subjected her to an automatically unfair dismissal". The bank said she was dismissed for "misconduct". The court spent page after page outlining the bizarre history of Kabe’s dispute with her employer, but that is not the point here. Rather, it is the judge’s comments when making a costs order against her that readers should note. Moshoana said that since the case of Zungu, deci...

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