A New York City firefighter has been getting paid since 2013 while not having to do any work, the New York Post reports.
Arnaldo Rodriguez, 40, has been at home for the past two-and-a-half years, culminating in some $125,000 in salary plus benefits, while the Fire Department of New York decides what to do with him.
“It’s crazy. I’m in limbo land,” Rodriguez told the Post.
Rodriguez’s fiasco all began 13 years after he joined the Fire Department as an EMT. In July 2013 he was promoted to firefighter after becoming a “priority hire” as part of the department's settlement of a federal racial-discrimination lawsuit.
Since he was a Hispanic litigant, the promotion was supposed to automatically make him a firefighter with seniority, and would have increased his salary to about $85,000 annually.
However, mere days after he entered the Fire Academy, Rodriguez told the Post, he was told to report for a hearing at the Office of the Chief of Personnel. At that hearing, Rodriguez was asked for his cellphone number and then told that he no longer needed to make an appearance at the academy.
When Rodriguez asked what he was meant to do in the meantime, he said he was told, “You work for us. We don’t work for you. We’ll call you—don’t call us,” according to the Post.
To date, he hasn’t been assigned anywhere.
Rodriguez and his lawyer say they believe that the department is merely listing Rodriguez as a firefighter on paper to show that it followed the settlement agreement, without really intending to make use of him. This is accomplished, they believe, by making use of an off-duty concussion that Rodriguez suffered while still an EMT, which had put him on “light duty” in that job for years.
His lawyer, Peter Gleason, told the Post that the Fire Department has repeatedly sought to question Rodriguez on the old injury, without clarifying his status with the FDNY.
Furthermore, Gleason revealed, on Jan. 22 the department sent a letter saying that Rodriguez had been demoted back to an EMT on Aug. 2, 2013, although, according to Gleason, it refused to provide details.
Nonetheless, Gleason added, he got a letter on Jan. 16 from the city’s personnel office, which confirmed that Rodriguez was still a firefighter. Rodriguez’s paychecks also show deductions to the firefighters union, the Uniformed Firefighters Association.
According to the Post, a spokesman for the FDNY has refused to comment “until the department’s investigation is complete.”
As for Rodriguez, he’s still waiting.
“This has been killing me for more than two years. Right now my life is on standby. I remain ready, willing to go back to full duty,” Rodriguez said.
A hearing is scheduled for Friday.
Read more at the New York Post.