Op-Ed by Peter Lucas — Kansas Unemployment FAIL

Op-Ed by Peter Lucas:  Kansas Unemployment FAIL

Back in the 90′s, I worked for a company that was seasonal. We would work 9 months and be laid off for 3. I was laid off, so I enrolled in a couple of night classes. I was still available to work, but the unemployment office told me I could not draw unemployment if I was a student. So their brilliant plan was to give my lazy coworkers money (the ones who were watching Jerry Springer and drinking beer all day), but not give me, the hard working student, anything. Thanks Kansas.

I’ve been reading lots of news about the underfunded Kansas unemployment system, and how they are in dire need of more money, and how they’re raising rates (nearly double) on employers because so many people are currently unemployed.

Then I had some recent personal experience with the unemployment system and the problem suddenly came into focus.

Last October, my wife was terminated from her job as an office manager in a small medical practice. She was working for a friend, and the friendship went bad… which of course led to the termination. Kansas is a right-to-work state, so he had every right to terminate her for that reason, or for any reason.

However, he then became vindictive. This is the problem with working for a friend, especially one who is a megalomaniac. I am not vindictive, so I will not be telling you what business this was.

The point of all that background is to bring you to the Kansas unemployment system, which is as efficient as it is intelligent.

Initially, my wife filed her claim, but for some reason checks didn’t start coming. This was odd, because we had been led to believe that unemployment would actually send money to people who were unemployed.

About 3 weeks later, we received a letter that told us her ex-boss was disputing her unemployment, claiming he fired her for cause. This was a surprise to us, but he didn’t appear to have any evidence (since he conjured it up in his own head), so we weren’t worried.

What DID shock us was that the dispute hearing was EIGHT WEEKS LATER. So we’d already waited 3 weeks to get the letter, then we had to wait 8 more for the hearing, then if we won, probably wait another couple of weeks for the money to come in. I had to wonder how this affects families that are living paycheck to paycheck?

The date of the dispute phone call finally came, and my wife told the unemployment official the story. The ex-boss wasn’t able to provide any evidence of his claim, so we were approved for unemployment.

No less than 11 weeks after she lost her job, the first check finally arrived.

We thought that was the end of it, but it got much worse. Her employer filed an appeal. He apparently decided that forgery of documentation would be all he needed to overturn the ruling. It was laughably bad forgery, too. He signed her maiden name even though she was married at the time he dated forms. It didn’t even look like her handwriting. The attempt was feeble at best.

We knew that any reasonable judge would favor our side, so we once again waited 2 weeks for the hearing. They told us in the letter that we MUST NOT USE A CELL PHONE. So we gave our home phone number, and the day of the hearing I took off work so I could be moral support on the call.

At the allotted time, no phone call came. We called the court clerk, who attempted to contact the judge. No response. We waited by the phone for 3 hours, calling the clerk every 15 minutes trying to get a response.

After more than 3 hours, the judge finally responded to the clerk, telling her that “I tried to call and no one answered.”

Now, we were sitting by the phone, the two of us. We called in when they didn’t call us. I asked the clerk what we could do, and the judge told us, to paraphrase “It’s not my fault you didn’t pick up, so suck it.”

The phone was working, we gave them the correct number (verified by the clerk), and we were sitting there waiting, and proactively trying to be present for the hearing.

Without her on the call to refute his BS, we lost the appeal. Now we are being compelled to pay back the unemployment paid from October. And no more KS unemployment. And no Federal extension.

Basically we are completely screwed because they didn’t call us for the hearing. Our only recourse is to take him to court, which we all know is expensive, time consuming, and stressful.

So thanks, Kansas. You have never done anything for my family in time of need. FAIL. I’m going to have to move to a state that doesn’t have it’s head up it’s butt, like Missouri.

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