How A Civil Servant Skipped Work For Six Years And Still Got Paid

How did a Spanish civil servant manage to take a six-year paid vacation without anyone noticing? Well, the explanation is rather complicated — and somewhat hilarious.

Engineer Joaquín García began working for a water company managed by Cádiz’s municipal authority in 1990. In 1996, Joaquín was posted to Agua de Cadiz, the city’s water board. According to the Guardian, his job was to supervise a water waste treatment plant. Soon after the civil servant was appointed to his position, he was left to his own devices, and absolutely no one bothered to routinely check in.

This laissez-faire behavior provided perks the man would eventually exploit, allowing him to collect a paycheck for six years while taking an “extended vacation.”

Incredibly, Joaquín García would have probably gotten away with his behavior had it not been for a perceived milestone. As Spanish newspaper El Mundo reports, deputy mayor Jorge Blas Fernández thought the civil servant had been on the job for 20 long years. Having hired García, Fernández believed the engineer deserved a work award for years of dedicated service to the city of Cádiz.

It was when the deputy mayor traveled to the civil servant’s office that he found out that Joaquín hadn’t been seen for quite some time. Jorge was both baffled and deeply concerned. He even wondered if García had died and no one told him about it.

After finally getting in touch with the absent employee, Fernández soon realized that not only was the man alive and well, he had been virtually absent for about six years. It was probably one of the longest — if not the longest — paid vacations in human history. The only caveat is that the employee hadn’t bothered to tell anyone about it.

Unsurprisingly, once the deputy mayor realized Joaquín García wasn’t working (and hadn’t done so in a long time), he was rather furious. Jorge Blas Fernández told the press, “I asked [García], ‘What are you doing? What did you do yesterday? And the previous month?’ He could not answer.” Instead of finding himself a work award recipient, the civil servant now found himself in a world of trouble. It was soon determined the man had performed “absolutely no work” between 2007 and 2010.

It was soon discovered the man had done “absolutely no work” between 2007 and 2010. Rather than face the music, Politico, citing the UK Times, reports Joaquín denied taking the six-year paid vacation. Instead, the now busted man claimed to have turned up from time to time for work. However, he insisted there was simply nothing for him to do at the water waste treatment plant when he arrived.

Friends of the now 69-year-old engineer said that the issue was more serious than chronic boredom. Allegedly, the civil servant was the victim of workplace harassment and bullying due to his political views. They said the vicious behavior made Joaquín afraid to go to work. Rather than file a complaint, the civil servant just stayed home and quietly collected his paycheck. During his absence, he earned €37,000 or about $41,650 per year.

The elderly employee said that the deception wasn’t meant to be malicious; he was simply afraid of being unable to find a new job due to ageism. With a family to support, the man didn’t want to risk finding himself without a steady income.

The matter took a few years to settle, but the court eventually sided with García’s employers. The engineer was ordered to pay a $30,000 fine. The court’s investigation into this bizarre situation is what determined exactly how the civil servant managed to skip work for six years without getting caught.

“The tribunal concluded that the water board had believed García was the responsibility of the city council for most of the period of his employment, while the city council thought he was working for the water board.”

In other words, a miscommunication about who the boss was meant that technically there wasn’t a boss. Unfortunately for the city, once the right manager was identified, it was too late to fire Joaquín García as he’d already retired.

[Photo by Chris M. Gordon/Getty Images]