On Tuesday, October 25, ICLE hosted a Community Zoom on navigating issues in unemployment insurance, featuring contributors Tony Paris, lead attorney at the Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice, and Jennifer Charnizon, statewide staff attorney at Legal Services of South Central Michigan. With a wealth of knowledge and experience, Tony and Jennifer provided insight on current issues with Michigan unemployment insurance including the current backlog of cases, overpayment, fraud, recent developments in the law, and valuable practice pointers. Below are a few highlights from our discussion:
- Wage garnishment—Currently, there should not be any Pandemic Unemployment Assistance garnishments. There is an injunction based in the court of claims class action that imposed a stay on much of the collection efforts. If your clients’ wages are being garnished, it may be helpful to reach out to the attorney general.
- False fraud—The computer system is automating fraud claims. The case of Bauserman v Unemployment Ins Agency, 330 Mich App 545, 950 NW2d 446 (2019) is tied to claimants from 2013-2015. However, larger scale systemic challenges are ongoing, and more settlements like Bauserman are expected in the future.
- Know your audience—It is beneficial to know that prior to your hearing, it is highly unlikely that arguments outlined in a letter submitted through an automated system will have any impact. The hearing with the administrative law judge (ALJ) is where attorneys and legal strategies play the most important role.
- Tips for ALJ hearings—
- The Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) does not transfer your appearance to the ALJs. You should separately file an appearance with the ALJ.
- The client will receive the notice of the hearing, therefore, requesting a copy of the appeal packet is recommended.
- Every distinct issue will involve its own hearing, even if the hearings are scheduled for the same date and time.
- Evidence should be submitted to ALJs, even if your client has already submitted everything to the UIA.
- Overpayments—Arguments regarding income level, agency or clerical error, and lack of jurisdiction are important to raise as the system unjustly flags beneficiaries for overpayment. The Michigan UIA continues to reverse monetary determinations that trigger an overpayment. If you see a reversal happening more than a year after the initial determination, it is never too late to argue lack of jurisdiction.