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Fremont liver transplant recipient ordered to pay back unemployment benefits

Published: Jul. 24, 2020 at 4:53 PM CDT
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FREMONT, Neb. (WOWT) - A Nebraska man claims fear of COVID-19 exposure caused him to quit his job. He received unemployment benefits and now the state wants that money back.

Before getting a job last year, Gary Murphy, 69, says doctors had to work on him.

“This is where the transplant is. It ripped me from here to here,” Murphy said.

A new liver gave him strength and Murphy worked front desk security for a subcontractor at a Fremont plant until quitting mid-March.

“I checked with doctors and they said you best get out of there,” he said.

In an email, Nebraska Medicine confirmed Murphy had a liver transplant but did not mention workplace exposure to COVID-19. But the email disclosed the team advises transplant patients to follow CDC guidelines as high-risk patients.

Murphy applied for and received more than $600 a week in unemployment benefits for eight weeks until payments suddenly stopped.

A Nebraska Labor Department letter tells Murphy he left work voluntarily without good cause. Murphy disagrees.

“My job was the front desk and you’re exposed to everybody coming in there,” he said.

The department issued a statement that said “our records do not show that he mentioned or documented a medical condition. Labor reps spoke with him throughout June and July.”

Murphy claims he revealed his liver transplant from the beginning of the application process.

“I told them I quit because of the COVID.”

Murphy has been ordered to repay more than $5,000 he received in state and federal unemployment benefits.

“They gave it to me, now the guy is claiming it took them that long to find out I wasn’t eligible for it,” Murphy said. “I didn’t say anything to try and get benefits I didn’t deserve. I wouldn’t do that.”

Murphy hopes to find a work from a home job not to just help pay transplant medical deductibles but possibly the state for unemployment benefits he thought were earned.

Both Murphy and his former-employer indicated to the Nebraska Department of Labor he left his employment over salary issues.

Under Nebraska law, that is not a good cause for quitting and results in disqualification from benefits.

Murphy denies that and he has appealed the demand for repayment of unemployment benefits.

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