Hoffmann v South African Airways [2000] ZACC 17 (28 September 2000)


Human rights and fundamental freedoms - Bill of Rights - violation of the right to equality, human dignity and fair labour practices

Case summary

In September 1996, the appellant applied for a cabin attendant position with South African Airways (SAA). After a four-stage selection process, including interviews and role-playing, he was deemed suitable pending a medical examination. The examination indicated that he was clinically fit but tested positive for HIV. As a result, the medical report was altered to label him "H.I.V. positive" and considered "unsuitable" for employment. The appellant challenged the refusal to hire him based on constitutional grounds in the Witwatersrand High Court but was unsuccessful. However, he successfully appealed the matter directly to the Constitutional Court under rule 18 of the Constitutional Rules.

The Constitutional Court determined the constitutionality of South African Airways' (SAA) policy of excluding HIV-positive individuals from cabin attendant positions. They addressed whether this practice violated the Bill of Rights and determined the appropriate remedy. SAA justified their policy based on safety, medical factors, and operational requirements, citing other airlines with similar practices. The High Court supported SAA's position, emphasizing the importance of passenger and crew health and the airline's reputation. However, the Constitutional Court, with input from the Aids Law Project, found SAA's justifications to be unfounded. In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that SAA violated the appellant's constitutional right to be free from discrimination. They emphasized that not all HIV-positive individuals pose the alleged risks and that the practices of other airlines were irrelevant. Therefore, the court concluded that SAA's refusal to employ the appellant based on his HIV status was unconstitutional.

The Constitutional Court allowed the appeal, overturning the High Court's decision. They ordered SAA to offer immediate employment to the appellant and ruled that SAA must bear the costs of the application in both the High Court and the Constitutional Court.

The Constitutional Court held that reinstatement was the appropriate remedy for the individual who was unfairly denied employment due to discrimination. However, taking the specific circumstances into account, it was deemed unfair to SAA to apply the order retroactively.

Loading PDF...

This document is 344.9 KB. Do you want to load it?

▲ To the top

Cited documents 5

Legislation 5
1. Labour Relations Act, 1995 1970 citations
2. Employment Equity Act, 1998 531 citations
3. National Education Policy Act, 1996 439 citations
4. Medical Schemes Act, 1998 370 citations
5. Legal Succession to the South African Transport Services Act, 1989 243 citations

Documents citing this one 21

Case summary 1
1. Case Summary: Hoffmann v South African Airways (CCT 17/00) [2000] ZACC 17 (28 September 2000)
Judgment 17
1. Head of Department : Mpumalanga Department of Education and Another v Hoërskool Ermelo and Another [2009] ZACC 32 (14 October 2009) 58 citations
2. City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality v Gauteng Development Tribunal and Others [2010] ZACC 11 (18 June 2010) 43 citations
3. Minister of Defence and Military Veterans v Motau and Others [2014] ZACC 18 (10 June 2014) 43 citations
4. amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism NPC and Another v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and Others ; Minister of Police v amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism NPC and Others [2021] ZACC 3 (4 February 2021) 25 citations
5. Centre for Child Law and Others v Media 24 Limited and Others [2019] ZACC 46 (4 December 2019) 17 citations
6. Corruption Watch NPC and Others v President of the Republic of South Africa and Others (Helen Suzman Foundation as Amicus Curiae); Nxasana v Corruption Watch NPC and Others (Helen Suzman Foundation as Amicus Curiae) [2018] ZACC 23 (13 August 2018) 16 citations
7. Psychological Society of South Africa v Qwelane and Others [2016] ZACC 48 (14 December 2016) 13 citations
8. Head of Department, Department of Education, Free State Province v Welkom High School and Another; Head of Department, Department of Education, Free State Province v Harmony High School and Another [2013] ZACC 25 (10 July 2013) 12 citations
9. AB and Another v Minister of Social Development [2016] ZACC 43 (29 November 2016) 10 citations
10. Schubart Park Residents' Association and Others v City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality and Another [2012] ZACC 26 (9 October 2012) 9 citations
11. Offit Enterprises (Pty) Ltd and Another v Coega Development Corporation (Pty) Ltd and Others [2010] ZACC 20 (18 November 2010) 6 citations
12. Thubakgale and Others v Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality and Others [2021] ZACC 45 (7 December 2021) 5 citations
13. De Vos NO and Others v Minister of Justice And Constitutional Development and Others [2015] ZACC 21 (26 June 2015) 4 citations
14. City of Cape Town v Khaya Projects (Pty) Ltd and Others (158/2015) [2016] ZASCA 107 (26 July 2016) 1 citation
15. Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation and Others v Minister of Minerals and Energy and Others (82865/18) [2022] ZAGPPHC 718 (4 May 2022)
16. Right to Know Campaign and Others v City Manager of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality and Another (49197/19) [2022] ZAGPJHC 942 (10 June 2022)
17. Right to Know Campaign and Others v City Manager of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality and Another (49197/2019) [2022] ZAGPJHC 30 (10 June 2022)