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Financial planner’s EI appeal denied after she was fired for unauthorized access, sharing of bank data

by HR Law Canada

A financial planner at a bank, terminated for unauthorized access to customer accounts and sharing confidential data with an ex-employee, has been denied her employment insurance (EI) appeal.

The Social Security Tribunal of Canada said the worker, identified as XL, was not eligible for benefits due to misconduct at her previous place of employment, upholding a decision by the Canada Employment Insurance Commission. Her actions violated the unnamed bank’s code of conduct, according to the employer.

The bank’s termination letter to XL read, in part:

This is to confirm our discussion of today, when you were advised that your employment with [bank] has been terminated for cause effective immediately. Our investigation has revealed that you breached several [bank] policies when you reviewed customer accounts without a valid business reason and then gave by email confidential information to a former [bank] employee. Your conduct constitutes a serious breach of [bank] policies, including but not limited to [bank’s] Code of Conduct. As a result, [bank] has lost all confidence in your ability to work with honesty and integrity

The worker’s defense

XL’s defense centered on her belief that while she anticipated a potential suspension, she did not expect termination from her job.

During the course of the hearing, she provided detailed testimony in her defense, which the tribunal accepted over the notes provided by the commission, which originally denied her benefits. She had consistently denied any wrongdoing during her interactions with the commission.

Despite her testimony, it was determined that she was fully aware of the code of conduct, knew her actions were wrong, and understood the potential consequences, including the loss of her job.

Worker’s arguments dismissed

She further argued that the accessed client data wasn’t private and that the emailed client account information wasn’t confidential. This argument was dismissed for multiple reasons:

  1. Her actions went against the spirit of the bank’s code as she placed her and her former colleague’s interests above those of the bank’s clients.
  2. The bank and XL held a duty of confidentiality to their clients, which wasn’t voided even if a former employee had once had access to the data.
  3. A customer complaint had been lodged against XL for improperly accessing their personal information.
  4. The code itself defines “confidential information” as anything not public.
  5. Even if the privacy and confidentiality parts of her argument were considered, she still contravened the code by admitting she had no business reason for her actions.

XL also raised concerns about potential racial biases that may have affected the decision to terminate her. She argued the dismissal was at least partly influenced by racism, drawing attention to her ethnic background as a potential factor.

But the tribunal did not find substantial evidence to support her claims, and her dismissal was primarily attributed to the breach of the code of conduct and misuse of client information.

The tribunal’s ruling concluded that XL’s actions met the legal definition of misconduct under the EI Act. Consequently, she was found ineligible for EI benefits, leading to the dismissal of her appeal.

It also noted that its role is not to determine whether the employer’s decision to dismiss an appellant was reasonable, justified, or the appropriate sanction.

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