A soldier in the state of Iowa is suing the state Department of Public Safety for allegedly refusing to pay him his salary while he is incapacitated by COVID-19.
Hamilton County Trooper Matthew T. Eimers, who has been employed by the department for the past 21 years, is suing the agency at Polk County District Court.
He claims the Iowa Department of Public Safety is required by law to pay him his full compensation and benefits from January 4 last year, when he first contracted COVID-19, into the future.
Eimers cites an Iowa law that states that any peace officer who becomes incapacitated as a result of “injury, illness, or exposure incurred or aggravated during the actual performance of his or her duty” is entitled to collect his or her salary without using sick leave until he or she takes sick leave. is fully recovered or declared permanently disabled.
According to Eimers’ lawsuit, heart disease, lung disease, and infectious diseases are each presumed to be Iowa’s work-related conditions if entered into by a law enforcement officer.
Eimers claims that in September 2004, his supervisor took him to a Des Moines hospital due to respiratory and heart problems, and that he was diagnosed with arterial fibrillation, a heart disease. Seventeen years later, in January 2021, Eimers reports that he became ill with COVID-19, which aggravated his heart disease and led to a lung disease or weakness. Eimers claims he has been unable to work since then and that his doctors have advised him to retire.
The lawsuit finds that while Eimers originally received his regular salary after being off work due to COVID-19, the checks stopped coming after 60 days, meaning the state currently owes him a year’s salary, plus additional salary , extending into the future.
Eimers claims that since April last year, he has had to use his accumulated sick leave and other benefits to make ends meet.
The department has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit, but it denied any wrongdoing in a recent, separate case based on the same allegations.
The case, filed by Eimers last December, sought a court order ordering the department to pay him his salary and that the state police retirement system should send his records to a medical assessment committee for a decision on whether he is disabled. The case was dismissed, and a judge found that because Eimers had not exhausted all administrative remedies, the court had no jurisdiction in the case.
Eimers has asked the court to reconsider that decision, arguing that there are no administrative remedies he can pursue. A hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Friday.