It’s not uncommon for firefighters to moonlight with a second hobby-related career. It’s also not uncommon to find people receiving workplace disability benefits, claiming to not be healthy enough to perform their duties, only to eventually be caught doing other activities ever bit as physical and taxing as their job requires.
What is a little bit more uncommon is for someone to unabashedly do both and to do it so very publicly.
Raphael Davis is a firefighter for the Los Angeles City Fire Department who received $30,000 in workers’ compensation benefits between December 2008 and May 2011 because he claimed he wasn’t healthy enough to work. However, during that same time period, his career as a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter, competing under the name of “The Noodle,” was reaching new heights.
Despite his less-than-intimidating moniker (presumably he rejected “The Noodler” for fear of being confused with an Oklahoma catfish strangler, and “Wet Noodle” and “Limp Noodle” in favor of the more fearsome “Noodle”), the 35-year-old “disabled” firefighter fought seven times during that 2 1/2 year “disability” period, winning six of those fights and tallying a 12-2 all-time record, according to MMA Fighting. His most recent bout was March 24 in Geneva, Switzerland, a fight in which he knocked out his opponent in the second round, presumably by lashing him with his noodle.
And apparently he wasn’t trying to hide it either. “Noodle” has a Twitter page on which he actively posts about his activities and on which he describes himself as “currently one of Bellator’s Light Heavyweight fighters.” He also appeared on television and gave multiple interviews during the alleged “disability” period.
Despite his ring name, Raphael did not use his noodle when it came to hiding his fraudulent pugilistic career. He has now been dealt a serious blow to his MMA dreams and possibly even his career as a firefighter. Davis was arrested last month, charged with four felony counts of insurance fraud, and now faces up to five years in jail. Last week, he was arraigned at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles and entered a “not guilty” plea. He’s due back in court on June 27.
As MMA Fighting writer Mike Chiappetta noted, Davis isn’t the only one to come away with a black eye in this situation.
“Even if prosecutors prove the charges and Davis is found guilty, the state comes off looking bad to some degree. That would mean that somehow, Davis managed to continue his MMA career undetected for 2 1/2 years while appearing multiple times on television during that span.”
As for his part, Davis made the following statement in a press release issued following the arraignment:
“I emphatically deny all charges against me, and I have never filed a false worker’s compensation claim while working as a firefighter. Further, any injuries received while competing in mixed martial arts had nothing to do with any worker’s compensation claims.
“The media has portrayed me in a light that is in complete contradiction to my personal code of ethics. I am a professional athlete, family man, law-abiding citizen, and advocate for my community. I look forward to my day in court and being able to prove my innocence. I believe the facts will speak for themselves at that time.”
They surely will.
It will be interesting to see how he reconciles his workers’ compensation claims and two-plus years of disability leave from his firefighting duties in light of his active and successful MMA fighting career. Although Davis obviously considered himself slippier than a wet noodle, methinks his noodle is cooked.
Raphael Davis’s most recent fight, March 24, 2012, in Geneva, Switzerland
(How disabled does he look to you?)
About the author
Sam Fulkerson is a labor and employment attorney with the McAfee & Taft law firm. His practice is focused on the representation of management in all phases of the employment relationship, including litigation before federal and state courts, regulatory and administrative agencies, and in arbitration matters. He also handles litigation matters involving the enforcement of non-competition and confidentiality agreements, breach of employment contracts, handbook and personnel policy violations, wage and hour disputes and other disputes arising out of the employment relationship.
Sam has extensive experience in mediating and arbitrating employment disputes before the American Arbitration Association and other alternative dispute resolution organizations. He also has successfully represented employers in ERISA-based lawsuits against third-party administrators for misuse of employer funds, and against insurers for bad faith denial of employer claims under medical excess loss policies.
In addition to litigation matters, Sam assists employers in developing employment policies and arbitration programs, and with preventive training for both management and hourly employees. He also routinely advises employers on hiring, discipline and termination, severance and reduction-in-force matters.
Sam lectures frequently on employment law topics in Oklahoma and elsewhere, including for the University of Oklahoma Center for Continuing Education, the Oklahoma Bar Association, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit Annual Seminar and the Southern Methodist University School of Law Multi-State Labor and Employment Law Seminar. Sam also has published scholarly articles in the Oklahoma Law Review and the Society for Human Resource Management Legal Report, and he was the primary author of “Age Discrimination in the Workplace: A Primer for Human Resource Professionals,” Society for Human Resource Management (1999).
Sam is the designated representative of McAfee & Taft as the exclusive member firm representing Oklahoma in the Employers Counsel Network, a nationwide affiliation of leading law firms providing legal assistance and representation to employers. He is also co-editor of the Oklahoma Employment Law Letter, a monthly review of new court decisions, regulations and laws that affect state employers.
His achievements have earned him inclusion in Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, The Best Lawyers in America (labor and employment law) and Oklahoma Super Lawyers. He also served as the leader of the firm’s Labor and Employment Group for five years.