South African Police Service v. Barnard

The South African Police Service (“SAPS”) had adopted the Employment Equity Plan (“EEP”), which sets numerical goals to produce gender and racial diversity. The appellant, Ms. Barnard, applied twice for a position in the National Evaluation Service of the SAPS in 2005. Despite being shortlisted, interviewed, and recommended as the best-suited candidate, she did not get the position on either occasion. This case concerns her second attempt, where the National Commissioner did not appoint Ms. Barnard on the grounds that it would not enhance racial representation at that salary level and that it was not necessary to fill the vacancy immediately because the post was not critical. While the Labor Court found that SAPS had unfairly discriminated against the appellant, the Labor Appeal Court found in favor of SAPS. On further appeal, the Supreme Court of Appeal (“SCA”) reversed the Labor Appeal Court’s decision and held that Ms. Barnard had been the victim of unfair discrimination on the basis of race, in violation of Section 9(3) of the Constitution and Section 6(1) of the Employment Equity Act (the Act). The Constitutional Court granted SAPS leave to appeal and unanimously reversed the SCA’s ruling in favor of Ms. Barnard. As the Court noted, the SCA found that SAPS had failed to rebut the presumption that the discrimination against Ms. Barnard was unfair. But, since the EEP was a valid affirmative action measure, the issue was not whether the Plan could overcome such presumption, but whether the decision the National Commissioner made under it was open to challenge. The Court found that the Commissioner properly exercised his discretion. Appointing Ms. Barnard would have aggravated the overrepresentation of white women at that salary level. And, the decision did not bar Ms. Barnard from future promotions.



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