She was hoping to keep her options open in case the new position didn't work out, according to an adjudicator's ruling. Instead, she ended up being fired from both jobs and embroiled in a four-year legal battle over her actions.
It all started in November, 2003, the ruling said, when Ms. Way, then a senior lawyer in the Toronto office of the Canada Revenue Agency, accepted a job in Ottawa with the Canadian Forces Grievance Board, CFGB.
Ms. Way signed the offering letter and checked a box marked: “I accept to this offer.” She didn't tell anyone at the CRA about the offer but negotiated a starting date with the CFGB.
She showed up for her first day of work at the board on Monday Feb. 23, 2004. To cover her absence at the CRA, Ms. Way used some vacation time.
At the CFGB, she attended a new-employee orientation session, met some co-workers and had her contact information entered into the office directory. She was also given an office, a computer and a few files to start working on and arranged dates for training sessions. She even applied for financial assistance to help relocate to Ottawa.
Ms. Way worked at the board for a week. The next Monday, she returned to her CRA job in Toronto and called in sick every day for a week at the CFGB. The Monday after that, she was back in Ottawa at the CFGB, using up more vacation time from the CRA.
Her dual life came crashing down when a human resources officer at the CFGB made a routine call to the CRA in Toronto and discovered that Ms. Way still worked there.
The discovery prompted the CFGB to fire her, while the CRA launched an investigation.
Ms. Way fought back. She filed a grievance and took the CRA to task throughout the investigation, arguing that she had not technically accepted the job but was just “checking it out.”
The CRA determined that Ms. Way could no longer be trusted and it fired her as well. The agency concluded that she had lied throughout the ordeal and violated the federal code of ethics and conduct as well as the conflict of interest code.
Ms. Way wouldn't give up. She took her case to the Public Service Labour Relations Board and demanded that she be given her CRA job back.
At the board, she testified that she did not technically report for work at the CFGB and had done nothing wrong. She argued that she was “merely entering a voluntary and unpaid internship” and was “only shadowing the job, checking or trying it out.”
Despite her legal training and four university degrees, Ms. Way said she had difficulty understanding the conduct and conflict-of-interest codes. She added that “making a mistake concerning a potential conflict of interest is just that – a mistake and need not be bad faith.”
At worst, she argued, her behaviour was mischievous.
Muriel Wexler, a director of the CFGB, testified that the board doesn't have internships.
Karen Clifford, a lawyer representing the CRA, argued that Ms. Way had displayed a “staggering lack of candour” throughout the saga.
“Trust is an integral part of the employment relationship, and Ms. Way has shown the CRA that its trust in her was misplaced,” Ms. Clifford told the board.
Adjudicator Barry Done agreed. In a ruling released last week, Mr. Done had harsh words for Ms. Way, saying her credibility was “at best, lacking, if not completely absent!”
Mr. Done wondered how long her “charade” might have lasted if not for the routine human resources call. “It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time,” he added quoting Abraham Lincoln, “you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time. Ms. Way's attempt seems not to have fooled anyone.”
He ruled that the CRA had “ample reason to conclude that the employment relationship is moribund.
Ms. Way was unavailable for comment. Her representative, Toronto paralegal Ron Werda, declined comment.