Kerr immediately reported this to Steel's manager who confirmed the personal file was currently open on Steel’s computer.
“Contrary to Steel's evidence, Valdal said that he was not trying to obtain a document from Kerr but rather that Steel had asked him earlier about her eligibility for a parking spot,” reveals Savinov. “He told Steel that he would reach out to Kerr to discuss but for Valdal, the issue was not a priority and he did not ask Steel to obtain any such document.”
As a result of the incident, CCSCU dismissed Steel on a "with cause" basis – insisting the company has lost confidence following the “severe breach of trust.”
“Madam Justice Ross held that Steel occupied a position of great trust in an industry of which trust is paramount,” revealed Savinov. “In her discussion, she found that Steel violated [CCSCU’S] trust in two ways: first by opening a confidential document in another employee's file for her own purpose and second, by violating the employer’s protocols that were to govern situations in which remote access of such documents was undertaken.”
Steel's action for wrongful dismissal was dismissed – a majority of the British Columbia Court of Appeal then affirmed the decision.
“While generally, a single act of misconduct by an employee, especially one with an unblemished, lengthy employment history, is not enough to support a just cause dismissal, this case illustrates that an employee's violation of trust on one occasion, depending on the severity and circumstances of the breach, may be sufficient to support a termination with cause,” warns Savinov.
“This case also stresses the value of creating workplace polices and properly disseminating them to employees as this was a key consideration of the Court in this decision,” she adds.
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