Justice protected: An EMT returns to work

A client of our South Jersey office is an EMT with an ambulance company. Trained on universal precautions, he knows how to do his job safely.

But when COVID arrived, he no longer felt safe at work. With a compromised immune system and inadequate personal protection equipment (PPE), he felt unsafe trying to provide care in the back of an unventilated ambulance.  

His infectious disease doctor advised him to take time off from work because he was putting himself at great risk. He applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and collected benefits. 

After four months, his ambulance company had PPE for its EMTs and incorporated a COVID protocol into its medical response, so our client confidently went back to work. 

He then received a letter from the New Jersey Division of Unemployment Insurance demanding he return the four months of benefits he had received, claiming he had no reason to be absent from his job. He had been relying on those benefits as his sole source of income and had no way to repay it. His health care provider referred him to us for help.  

We assembled the case with documentation from his doctor explaining the safety risk from exposure to COVID without PPE.

The hearing examiner agreed with our argument and reversed the demand for repayment. 

Our client is grateful that he can continue to provide health care for people in need without worrying about his finances or his safety.