At least four Durban men who had picked up prostitutes in company-branded vehicles – have lost their jobs after fed-up residents reported them to their employers.
“The residents are sick of the ‘Johns’ shopping for sex in our area, so we decided to target the Johns who use company vehicles.
“If we stop the demand then it will discourage and eventually stop the supply in our area,” Bulwer Community Safety Forum’s Heather Rorick said.
This is the third time the community organisation has resorted to hands-on action to rid their suburb of prostitution.
She said employers were “horrified” to learn that their employees not only drove around in cars displaying their company names, logos and contact details while soliciting prostitutes in Glenwood, Durban, but were also spotted engaging in sexual acts in the vehicles.
“When we contact the company, we ask them for feedback. In these four cases, necessary disciplinary steps were taken against the employees.”
The owner of an air-conditioning installation company said he received an anonymous tip-off in January. “The caller said one of my vehicles was seen in the area picking up a prostitute.
“He gave me the date and time of the incident and the vehicle registration number. I then checked our records and approached the employee with the complaint. He did not deny it.
“After a hearing, he was dismissed because prostitution is a crime and he committed the crime while he was on duty and in my vehicle,” he said.
Norton Rose Fulbright labour lawyer Karen Ainslie did not believe that the employees’ rights were violated in any way. “Members of the public are free to report bad behaviour of employees to employers, for instance if they see an employee in uniform assaulting someone or if they report bad driving in a vehicle with a company logo on.”
“Employers are similarly entitled to discipline employees for bringing the company’s name in disrepute, which will typically happen if an employee behaves badly or commits a crime whilst he/she can be identified as an employee or linked to the employer – for instance by picking up sex workers in a company vehicle,” she said.
When prostitution began to escalate in 2013, residents resorted to naming and shaming clients on Facebook, and the forum even considered duplicating the “Dear John” campaign in which a Californian community sent letters to drivers who frequented their neighbourhood. But both campaigns were abandoned.