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  1. #1

    Default Ordered to Pay $16,000 Back to Unemployment

    My question involves unemployment benefits for the state of: Illinois
    My question involves unemployment benefits for the state of: Illinois
    I was fired a year ago with no reason, no bad reviews or anything. My past employer did not fight my unemployment because he knew he had no case. Then, after almost 11 months of receiving unemployment he filed an appeal, or whatever it is legally called. They interviewed me and said I was not eligible because my work search history was not good enough. I appealed, and lost.

    Now I am to pay back $16,000 dollars! I am scared to death. I am 48, have no college degree or strong career experience to fall back on. I became divorced 10 years ago and worked while raising 2 kids alone. I didn't have time or finances to go to school. It seems every job wants a degree of some sort and experience doesn't matter. I still have no job. I have a daughter at home still also.

    It says they will deduct 25% from my wages when I get a job. Ok, IF i can find a job that makes $10 hour, they take out 25%, taxes take out 25%, I am left to trying to keep us going on $5 an hour!

    Of course the letter says I can pay it with a credit card! Piling finances charges on the $16,000 doesn't sound like a good idea. It will be years and years the way it is before I get it paid off.

    I have equity in my house, and have thought of trying to refinance it to get the extra money, but without a job I doubt they will let me do that.

    I am wondering about bankruptcy, if that will help or how small of payments unemployment will take.

    I just don't know what to do. I can file another appeal the letter says, but since they have already said my work search records weren't good enough I don't think anything will change with a new appeal.

    One 'legal adviser' (not on here) told me that if you don't have a job, that after a certain amount of time they will let it go and just take it out of your unemployment next time you are on unemployment. I have never been on unemployment before and hope to never be again.

    So worried. I really am a good person but I have no clue how to do this or ever, ever get ahead in my life. I know there are people who are much worse off than me, so I am not complaining, just need someone to talk to and hopefully some advice.

    Thanks for reading, I know this was long, I apologize.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Behind a Desk
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    73,747

    Default Re: Ordered to Pay $16,000 Back to Unemployment

    An employer letting things to for eleven months, only then filing an appeal and prevailing? There's more to the story than you've shared.

    You presumably have appellate rights from this decision. I suggest pursuing a timely appeal.

    Many states do recover overpayments from future unemployment claims. Nobody can promise you that the state will drop its active attempt to collect this debt in favor of such a future possibility.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    17,142

    Default Re: Ordered to Pay $16,000 Back to Unemployment

    What makes you think that the employer filed an appeal 11 months after the fact, rather than the state doing an audit? Your work search has nothing to do with your employer - that sounds far more like the state catching a prospective problem than it does an employer appeal.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Posts
    2,360

    Default Re: Ordered to Pay $16,000 Back to Unemployment

    Agree with what cbg said.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    CT & IL
    Posts
    5,276

    Default Re: Ordered to Pay $16,000 Back to Unemployment

    They were, for awhile, not even looking at search histories with the economy so bad....but they have started back up. If you did not keep a record of where you looked for work (~2 contacts/mo. should be OK) then you did not look for work. And you have to look for work on UI.

    You owe the money; you could file an administrative review case to your local district court. You have ~28 days after the ruling to file...

    If they are offering you another admin appeal I would do it .... how many job contacts have you had since you were on UI?

    A court will only look at what is on the admin. record so add as much information as you can ... you must have thought the UI hearing was a joke...its not

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    California
    Posts
    27

    Default Re: Ordered to Pay $16,000 Back to Unemployment

    If the state tax auditor did an investigation and , or determination field audit report - you are entitled to a copy of that . Maybe you should call the unemployment dept and ask if that is the case. Then you'll have documentation for an attorney to review to appeal the overpayment demand.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Ordered to Pay $16,000 Back to Unemployment

    I worked for a photographer. While working for the photographer I would on occasion do some photography for friends on the side. My employer was well aware of this and had absolutely no problem with. He had even critiqued my work for me and let me use a studio photography backdrop a few times.

    I was let go January of 2010 and was able to receive unemployment because he did not contest it, as he knew he had no reason to fire me. November of 2010 I get a notice from IDES that my past employer had sent them a letter which "indicated that you were collecting unemployment while operating your own photography business".

    I did the phone interview with the Unemployment office and everything was fine regarding IF I was running my own photography business while collecting unemployment, as I was not. The issue then moved from if I was running a business while collecting unemployment, to my work search history. My 19 year old son packed up and moved out the weekend before I received anything from IDES. And although I knew my son was moving out, and everything was fine with it, I was not home when he moved out. Long story short, he moves out, I can't find my work search records here, nor at his place. He's 19, he has no clue and swears he didn't see them. As you can imagine I was frantic and panicked.

    I called the attorney's # listed on the IDES website and explained to him what happened. He told me to write down as much as I could remember and to put down any photography work (freelance) I had attempted to get. So I did the best I could recreating the records, going through old emails and such, and also putting any attempts I had made at getting photography work on the search. I know the people I contacted about photography so it was fairly easy for me to remember that. Remembering the other was much harder, only going off my memory, email replies and such.

    Well.. the determination of the hearing was filed against me and said I owed them $16,000 back. I was granted an appeal, but the referee again determined against me on the same basis, stating, "the work searches filed were not sufficient to support a finding that her work search was reasonably calculated to lead to work. A large number of contacts were for customers in her self-employed business, there were few applications for work."

    But there WERE applications for work, and even some interviews listed on there. So how many applications is enough? I can't find anything anywhere that says what number is enough applications! Is it just a judgment call on the referees part?
    And I did have applications turned in and written on the work search, even some interviews, but they denied me benefits for the ENTIRE time. It didn't seem to matter that I had ever applied to any jobs at all. ALL weeks were denied. And now I am to repay them $16,000, the ENTIRE amount for the ENTIRE time.

    I have been able to recall a few more jobs I applied for, but I doubt it's enough to make any difference, if they would even take new stuff.

    Please don't reprimand me on the loss of the records, trust me, I have beat myself up quite well already about that.
    I have one appeal left that I have to file by March 16th. I don't know what to write as the reason for the appeal request, and I don't know what good it will do anyway. I don't know what else I could say or present that could help at this point.

    I am searching everywhere online trying to find somewhere that it says you have to submit a certain amount of applications a week and can find nothing! There is NOTHING in the handbook about it. I know the work search sheets that you fill out have a space for 5 a week, but no where I can find does it say what qualifies you and what doesn't.

    And no, the state tax auditor has nothing to do with this, no audit or anything regarding taxes is even involved in this.
    Thanks again for any help at all.

    I also got all the records from the Unemployment office regarding my case and there is a copy of the letter in there from my ex-employer to the unemployment office. I have a copy of the exact letter he sent them, and it said in my first notice of hearing that it had been reported to them by Photographic Arts, which is who I worked for. There is no question why they were looking at me.

    When I worked for him, he and I were discussing the receptionist at that time because she was extremely rude to customers. He straight out told me, and other employees, that he didn't want to fire her because he didn't want his unemployment insurance rates to go up because he had never had a claim. So he was going to just cut her hours back and hope she would quit. Which did eventually work.
    He is extremely tight. He was actually caught by one employee, who had hard copy proof, that he had changed her time and deducted hours from her pay. Most of us did not work the same amount of hours each week. I stupidly trusted him. She wisely did not, and caught it. Immediately after getting caught he called his lawyer. A month or two later some of us had extra money on our paychecks, he indicating he had added wrong when doing time sheets a while ago and just wanted to make it up to us. He was caught in so many lies at that point no one trusted him. Which has nothing to do with my case here, just some background of why he filed this against me.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    17,142

    Default Re: Ordered to Pay $16,000 Back to Unemployment

    I don't know what the law is in Illinois, but in MA you are required to make a minimum of three job contacts per week, every week that you collect. Most states I know of (again, this does not include IL) has a similar regulation. Were you making that many?

  9. #9

    Default Re: Ordered to Pay $16,000 Back to Unemployment

    Wow! I think there should be a statute of limitations on how long an employer can wait before contesting UI.

    In general, most states require an average of 3 contacts per week, not necessarily applications, but contacts. However, most states do not enforce this unless there's a big problem and doubt as to whether or not you were looking for work. And, usually if they ask for a job search history, it is only for a couple of weeks. Some states "credit" you for doing job-search "activities" such as using job search sites or updating online applications and resumes.

    In your case, I think what they're trying to prove is that you were, indeed, operating a business full-time while receiving unemployment during the entire time you were receiving it. They are using your work-search records to prove that was the case. In most states, being self-employed is not necessarily a bad thing, but I don't know about Illinois. Many states are fine with self-employment as long as you report either the income you earned and/or the time spent doing it.

    Where I live, in California, you can get into trouble for doing any activity that makes you unavailable for full-time work even if it doesn't pay you.

    I am no legal expert, but I would bring some kind of proof that you were not engaging or running a business while you were receiving unemployment. Also, if you reported any income to your UI office regarding your casual photography work, bring proof of that, too. I believe you can also bring witnesses or notarized statements from people who can verify that what you did was only intermittent or casual. If you don't have a lawyer, I would get one.

    What I think is really unfair is that the majority of people receiving UI do not have great job search records where they can prove that they've contacted at least 3 people a week every single week for the entire UI claim period. And, those lawyers on the other side know that, which is why they're using that tactic towards you.

    ETA: Some states only require 2 contacts per week on average. Also, if you are signed up for any staffing agencies, that may be a plus on your side.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    CT & IL
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    5,276

    Default Re: Ordered to Pay $16,000 Back to Unemployment

    I have re-read my state law & case law in respect to how many job contacts are required. Interesting reading ... there really is nothing codified, other than the phrase "reasonable efforts".

    I have seen some cases where 2 a week were not enough & others where 1 a month was sufficient. So I think it depends on your skill set.

    If you are an air traffic controller, you employer choices are more limited than, say, a general laborer.

    You should check your state case law (google scholar), find the state statue that noted the "reasonable effort" requirement and do a search under the statue.

    I don't know if doing a single careerbuilder search is considered in the "reasonable effort" as an action. I would certainly put it down as an effort.

    But if you are beyond the administrative stage & the commissioner's decision if a final administrative decision then the record is what is contained within their files today. And you would need to file an administrative appeal in you district court. Its very hard to win an administrative appeal. If they stated that because you did not apply for 3 jobs/wk as a reason then you may be able to convince a court that this is arbitrary, as the statues do not mandate this.

    With 10% unemployment it is an unusual set of circumstances as there simply are not jobs out there to apply for.

    I just did a search, country wide, to see how bad it is ... I got 79 hits in the entire US. Pretty grim. I remember the late 70's, early 80's .. I think it was grimmer back then .. but Regan turned this around after 2 yrs ... our current president is doing a crappy crappy job and just sits there and smiles at us saying that "look, this week jobless claims went down" and then the next week when they go up he hides.

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