John Sauro has found himself at the center of a disability pension debate, and now he is filing a $7 million lawsuit against the city that suspended his payments. The Providence firefighter dislocated his shoulder while carrying a person down three flights of stairs in 2000. He collected his disability pension for more than a decade, until a few months ago, when he refused to submit to a follow-up medical examination to confirm his continued disability.
The Rhode Island disability law applicable in this case only requires that an employee be 100% disabled from his job—regardless of whether he is fit to work another job, and that the disabling injury be job-related. The shoulder dislocation was job-related, as Sauro was injured while carrying an individual down three flights of stairs during the course of his work. In 2000, the Retirement Board issued Sauro an accidental-disability pension that totaled $3,902 a month. In 2011, he was required to undergo a follow-up exam to confirm that he remained disabled.
After Channel 12 WPRI released an expose featuring Sauro, he has come under additional scrutiny. The news channel recorded him engaging in strenuous weight-lifting training. Although he claimed this was merely to strengthen his shoulder, the city demanded another medical examination to confirm continued disability. When he refused, they suspended his pension payments. He says the entire ordeal has caused other stress-related health problems and financial difficulties. He has filed a $7 million lawsuit against the city of Providence.
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