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February 12, 2009

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Unemployment benefits are just weird. The worker *pays for them* in advance, and then is subjected to a host of bizarro world rules about actually accessing them when they need them.

aimai

I heard on the radio that employees with legal help win 80% of the time on appeal.

This happened to my wife a few years ago. She was "let go" at a company after a power struggle left her with few allies. Then they denied her benefits, saying she was fired for just cause.

It was incredible the lengths the went through to deny her her unemployment, including creating entire narratives against her. We ended up winning in the end, though, because we pointed out that the claims they made were entirely contradicted by the companies actions up to the point of firing.

If it had been left up to my wife, who gets very passionate about these kinds of things, I think it would have ended much, much worse for her. I had to coach her to stay focused on the facts of the case.

I'm pretty positive this is not at all a rare occurrence.

Wonder how much that costs, Ugh.

Not saying that it wouldn't usually be better to pay an attorney than lose your UI benefits. Just that people who are in a situation where they need to draw UI in the first place are a lot less likely to be able to afford to do so.

Not sure if you can get a PD for this kind of thing, I think that's usually only for criminal cases. But this strikes me as something that really ought to have a safeguard like that.

Catsy - I don't think the story said explicitly, but I got the impression that alot of the legal assistance was pro-bono and/or from publicly funded legal services firms.

But don't you see, publius, just like corporate opposition to card check, fighting unemployment benefits is for their (ex-)employees own good!

Generally speaking, employees are entitled to these benefits unless they were "fired for misbehavior" or quit.

Lots of people are voluntarily quitting their jobs these days, I hear.

What does the (former) employer has to lose by doing this? Are there any financial or legal sanctions against an employer for engaging in frivolous or malicious opposition to unemployment claims? Is there any negative incentive in operation to make a company think twice about the possible consequences of doing this without just cause? Or do they get a free ride - heads I win, tails it doesn't cost me anything except the minimal effort involved in making up slanderous stories about the former employee?

I hear the market is supposed to correct for that, ABQ.

Ugh & Catsy,

Yes, in many cases this is pro bono.

Not all challenges are invalid, as publius stated. As a fraud prevention guy, I get to document the wrongdoings of employees which leads to termination, then get to hear about their successful UE reinstatement because they effectively claimed that they didn't know it was wrong to defraud customers and the company.

TLTIA,

There is technically no downside, but some companies use third party employment practice/payroll companies to facilitate these disputes, and there may be fees and conditions attached to using these services.

(Work related disclosure notice--The stated views do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, and are a personal observation based on my professional experience in the field.)

I'm not sure that my employer is using this angle w/UI but they are laying people off for a week or less in order to not pay contractually guaranteed holidays. My company is repeatedly going through a convoluted process of laying workers off just as a holiday approaches, and then bringing us back immediately after. They don't want to pay for contractually guaranteed holidays and benefits and they are taking every advantage the system offers to avoid or postpone the arbitration.

What I don't understand is that these employers can see that they are driving their workers and themselves over a cliff into chaos, yet instead of hitting the brakes, they just give give it more gas. Listening to their anguished cries as more and more regulations are imposed will be sweet music to my ears. Then they can contemplate what it is they have bequeathed to their heirs.

During the first round of layoffs at my last job, the boss told the laid off not to apply for unemployment, because he didn't want to pay for it.

The general response rhymed with "duck shoe".

This boss had grown up rich, and was a bit clueless about money. That same day, he told one of the people that he had laid off two hours before that he should give $20,000 a year to each daughter to avoid taxes. The newly jobless man was, of course, not in a position to take advantage of this advice.

I set up a program to manage UC cases at a Federal government agency 25 years ago. We had loads of people who were fired or resigned who then claimed UC. It was costing us a bundle. The way it worked is we would provide the state agency with separation information on claims. If it was voluntary or for cause, the state would generally deny. The employee could, and often did, appeal. To win our case we would have to attend the hearing with a manger who could testify to the circumstances. If the manager couldn't make it, we withdrew or lost. In some jurisdictions it was very hard to win an appeal even if the separation was clearly voluntary or for good cause.

If companies are gaming the system they probably do it by trying to paper most separations as voluntary or for cause. Many employees won't follow through. When they do the company can simply abandon the appeals they know they can't defend.

Ugly.

Time for a little revolution ---- hangings, disemboweling, some Tutsi on Hutu action.

Before this is over, corporate America will have dug their grave and brought the socialist upheavel they so dread.

An armed population, courtesy of the nitwits in the Republican Party will not stand for this.

Michael
If your boss is "laying people off for a week or less in order to not pay contractually guaranteed holidays", you are eligible to collect UI for those weeks. Go file a claim, establish a benefit year, and file a claim for every week he pulls that stunt. Then, when the benefit year has ended, you can file a 'transitional claim' because you earned enough money when you were actually working to qualify for an additional year...in theory, you can do this indefinitely.

Note to you out there:
1. 'Voluntary quit' does not preclude collecting benefits. Every state has exceptions - many for reasons 'not connected to the work' which doesn't count against the employer's experience rating, meaning they don't bother protesting.

2. No, you the employee don't contribute to the fund - the employer does that.

blowtoad -- but do realize that your boss will get notice of your claim, and it will cost him $$. You have to ask yourself if the money is worth the loss of goodwill. Possibly he is just a creep, or is going under anyway, and you might as well make your claim. Possibly not.

Re lies about unemployment, it's fairly common. I did a little pro bono work in that area once, and heard that the employer often doesn't show up to support his dispute, he just hopes the employee will drop the claim. And if the employee shows up with a lawyer, the employer often drops the dispute without a word.

Don Hefferman,

The latest UE claim I had to deal with was entirely teleconferenced--the worker & his attorney were on one line, I was with the HR Director on another line, our local manager & regional manager were on a third line, and our employment service was the fourth line and coordinating for the administrative judge on the fifth line.

This was awkward (especially when participants on one line couldn't hear each other's testimony) but allowed everyone to be represented in the hearing--otherwise there was no way my company would pay around $4K in salary and expenses to contest a $3K claim.

I don't understand what's the percentage in doing this for the employer?

Happened to me a couple years ago after filing a harassment case against a supervisor. I went to both the EEOC and the Labor Board with my appeal and a shiny new retaliation case, got my unemployment reinstated AND a nice settlement that made it worth my while on both fronts. Companies do this crap because they can, and because most people are too distraught and scattered to do anything about it when they lose their jobs - it's more about figuring how how one eats and pays the bills than how to fight the faceless conglomerate that just screwed you, you know? When you show them they can't get away with it, they retreat pretty quickly, especially when you threaten to go public as I did.

As my union member father always tells me - companies, corporations and their managers very rarely do the right things on their own.

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