Skype Use in Arbitration Upheld in South Africa
A recent sexual harassment case in South Africa has established a precedent of using Skype to obtain testimony when a party is not able to conveniently or efficiently attend in person.
In the case, an employee of Campbell Scientific Africa was terminated due to a complaint of sexual harassment. The accuser moved to Australia, and the terminated employee filed an unfair termination suit against the company. During the arbitration proceedings, the arbitrator ruled that the accuser could offer testimony via Skype, the Internet video and telephony technology platform.
However, during the proceedings technical difficulties prevented a video image from being used, and the arbitrator allowed the testimony to be audio-only. Furthermore, there were frequent gaps in service when the connection was lost. The complainant challenged the arbitration ruling on the grounds that this was an unfair advantage, because the accuser had more time to compose her responses and the arbitrator did not have opportunity to review her demeanor.
The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) heard the arguments but ruled that since arbitration is by design less formal than litigation, with a preference for efficiency over formality, the arbitrator’s decisions were appropriate, and the arbitration ruling in favor of Campbell Scientific Africa was upheld.