Thursday, February 12, 2009

In Record Numbers, Employers Move to Block Unemployment Payouts

The front page above-the-fold article in the Washington Post today is about how more and more employers are contesting employee claims for benefits. It provides empirical support to what I have witnessed in my law practice: an increased number of calls from employees facing appeals. Sadly, there is often not much I can do for them because, like most lawyers, I am usually reluctant to get involved in an unemployment appeal.

Edit:  As a result of a change in the law, I am now taking unemployment appeals.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Workers Rights' Legal Clinic at the University of Maryland School of Law

If you have a meritorious unemployment benefits appeal and need legal representation, you may want to contact the Workers Rights' legal clinic at the University of Maryland School of Law. Trained law students, working under the supervision of their professor, who is an experienced employment law attorney, represent claimants in unemployment appeals.
For more information you can call Professor Deborah Eisenberg at 410-706-5995.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Is Severance Pay Deducted from Unemployment Benefits in Maryland?

UPDATE -- THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ELIMINATED THE LOOPHOLE DESCRIBED BELOW. Severance now usually disqualifies you from receiving unemployment.
The answer: it depends. Here is a direct quote from the DLLR Employer's Quick Reference Guide (see page 19):

The receipt of severance payments will not be deducted from . . . benefits if the individual’s job has been abolished through layoff, facility closure, etc., unless the employer continues to pay all wages and benefits, including leave accrual, after the individual has physically stopped working.

Translation: Severance will not be deducted if your job was abolished when you were laid off unless during your severance period you are receiving ALL of your wages and benefits and are still accruing leave.

Nevertheless, be careful to answer of all the DLLR's questions about severance benefits truthfully, and disclose severance benefits whenever asked.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Why Maryland Employment Lawyers Are Reluctant to Represent Claimants in Unemployment Hearings.

UPDATE:  Maryland unemployment changed the regulation discussed below.
Today The Washington Post published two articles on unemployment compensation: Deluge Is Holding Up Benefits to Unemployed Decline in Funding Forces Staff Cuts as Claims Swell and New Jobless Claims Surge to 626,000. The first article mentions the often harrowing appeal process that may occur when an employer contests a claim for benefits.

Potential clients often ask me if I will represent them in unemployment hearings. Sadly, my answer typically is no. The reason: a regulation limits the amount of compensation an attorney may charge for a hearing. The regulation limits the fee to $100 for a hearing, which can be increased to 150 percent of the claimant's weekly benefit amount upon an attorney submitting "an itemized account of services rendered in the case." The maximum weekly benefit amount is now $380. Hence, the maximum fee that could be awarded for an unemployment hearing is $570.

Five hundred seventy dollars is nothing to scoff at, but: (1) not every applicant is eligible for the maximum amount; (2) preparing for and attending a hearing often involves several hours of attorney work; and (3) a fee of more than $100 is awarded for a hearing only upon submission of a petition and approval by the Board of Appeals. Hence, most Maryland employment lawyers are reluctant to represent claimants in unemployment hearings.