The Supreme Court of British Columbia (SCBC) has ruled that a credit union was justified in firing an employee for improperly accessing a computer file, noting that trust is particularly important in the financial industry.

Late last month, the SCBC dismissed a lawsuit brought by a former employee of Coast Capital Savings Credit Union, finding that her termination was justified. According to the decision, the plaintiff, Susan Steel, sued Coast Captial for wrongful dismissal after she lost her job as an IT helpdesk analyst.

The credit union maintained that it had just cause for her dismissal. Namely that she was fired after “she was found to have accessed without permission a confidential document in another employee’s personal folder.”

The decision notes that while the circumstances under which she accessed the document are disputed, it says that she “acknowledges that she did open the document and that she did not have permission to do so. Her position is that the misconduct does not amount to cause for dismissal in the circumstances.” The court disagreed.

“Ms. Steel occupied a position of great trust in an industry in which trust is of central importance,” it says.

The decision notes that it was not practical for the credit union to monitor all of activities, it had to trust her to follow its document access rules. “Such trust was fundamental to the employment relationship in relation to Ms. Steel’s position,” it says.

The decision concludes that she “violated that trust in two distinct and important ways.” First, she opened a confidential document for her own purposes, it says; and, it adds that she did not have permission to do so. “I have concluded that in the circumstances this conduct amounted to just cause for dismissal. It follows that the action is dismissed,” it says.