ALBANY, N.Y. – While most elderly people plan for relaxation and travel during their retirement years, one federal employee at the Department of Veterans Affairs is settling in for the long haul, sources confirmed today.
Gertrude Smith, well into her nineties, will not retire anytime soon despite doing absolutely no work for the past 6 or 7 years, according to her co-workers.
"She literally stopped moving years ago, contributes nothing to our office and yet remains employed here,” front desk receptionist Angie Brooks said. “It’s frustrating. We've been trying to convince her to retire, but she never really answers us. She just sits there staring at her computer.”
Smith never really moves or even speaks, her manager said. She also reportedly doesn’t go home at night. She instead sits in her office staring into the distance.
Smith, who was around 30 years old when Kennedy was shot, attends daily meetings but hasn't said a word or asked a question since the Challenger explosion.
“We carry her weight literally.” said Duke Krenz, another coworker. “Someone always has to wheel her into the boardroom for meetings.”
Co-workers have urged Smith to retire, but she smiles and shakes her head no.
“Look, I appreciate that some people have health issues, but her blood has pooled in her feet and she just smells god-awful. Can she not smell herself?” said Laura Anderson, a nurse at the VA clinic. "Come on, have some courtesy for the rest of us."
"I mean, our hands were tied," said Smith's previous supervisor Jake Torrance. "To remove a non-performer from the federal government, jeez, it takes years to navigate the process. We gave Smith a bunch of warnings, but the VA's Performance Improvement Plan requires us to give an employee at least five years to improve. Even then, she has many appeal rights to counter management’s efforts.”
Records show that Smith was fired from the VA in 2015. However, an attorney filed an equal opportunity appeal on her behalf and she was reinstated. She was also awarded a large settlement, but the check was apparently never cashed.
The impact of Smith's inactivity is not only impacting the morale of her coworkers, but it’s also affecting the government’s efforts to recruit new talent into its aging workforce.
“This is concerning to me for a variety of reasons,” said Stacy Novak, the current human resources manager. “This is going to set a precedent and all ‘aged’ employees are going to stick around forever. I have to worry about bringing in fresh talent so the federal government can get out of the 1950s' mindset."
"But I can’t hire anyone until Gertrude stops taking up desk space,” she continued. “Doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon, unfortunately.”