The final hurdles have been crossed and SB 5193, an important bill, backed by ULP, which will improve many aspects of unemployment claims processing at the Employment Security Department (ESD), will be voted on at any time.
Key committees in the House of Representatives have okayed the measure and any day now, it will go to the floor for a vote before the full chamber.
The Senate already voted Yes on an earlier version of the bill. Some differences between the bills remain to be ironed out and then, with a Yes vote in the House, Washington will have several new provisions to protect claimants from the snarls, dead ends, and delays many encountered over the last 12 months when they were desperately in need of the unemployment benefits they had earned through their work.
SB 5193 requires ESD to:
Launch a training program to create a pool of adjudicators to have in reserve when unemployment claims levels surge.
Use plain language, tested on claimants for comprehensibility, in all letters, alerts, and notices;
Clearly explain the law behind determinations and redeterminations, the relevant facts, the reasoning, the decision and the result;
Explore: thresholds that trigger automatic adjustments in staffing, a pilot to provide a caseworker approach to benefit claims, and increased language access;
Dedicate a toll-free number for claimants with limited computer access or computer skills;
Maintain an online data dashboard, and provide quarterly reports with performance metrics that include updates of unemployment rates, claims data, claims center phone statistics, staffing ratios, overpayment data, and other information.
Report quarterly to the legislature on various other claims processing issues.
Please help SB 5193 cross the finish line!
Contact your legislators today and request their support for this measure urgently needed to protect Washington’s more than 3 million workers.
For more information from the Office of the Washington State Auditor (SAO), click here. For a list of Frequently Asked Questions regarding the data breach from the SAO, please click here.
On February 1, the Washington state auditor announced that hackers had obtained more than a million unemployment benefit claimant application records, leaving many 2020 benefit applicants’ identities at risk. (See State Auditor’s Office press release.)
These are steps that the Washington Department of Financial Institutions advises to prevent ID theft by an impostor or other criminal when such a data breach occurs.
Steps To Take After a Data Breach to Protect Your Financial Accounts from Fraud
CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS
Use the security breach as an opportunity to change and strengthen your passwords, especially those related to online financial institution accounts.
TWO FACTOR AUTHENTICATION
Enable two-factor authentication to log on to your bank account to prevent unauthorized access.
ACTIVATE BANK AND CREDIT CARD ACCOUNT ALERTS
Most financial institutions offer a variety of text and e-mail alerts through online banking. You may also wish to ask your specific institution what they recommend to keep your accounts safe.
You can set up alerts for:
When your profile or password is updated
When an ATM withdrawal exceeds a certain amount
When your account drops below a specific amount
When purchases happen
MONITOR YOUR ACCOUNTS FOR UNUSUAL ACTIVITY
Monitor your financial accounts for unusual activity and withdrawals. If you notice unauthorized activity, report it to your financial institution immediately.
CONSIDER PLACING A FRAUD ALERT OR FREEZE ON YOUR CREDIT REPORT
A fraud alert informs creditors of possible identity theft or fraudulent activity within your credit file and requests that the credit grantor contact you prior to establishing any accounts in your name. A fraud alert lasts for one year, seven if requested and you meet specific requirements. A freeze locks your credit so that credit applications are denied until/unless you unfreeze your credit.
To place a fraud alert or freeze, contact any of the three credit reporting agencies:
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR UNUSUAL EMAILS, TEXT MESSAGES OR PHONE CALLS
Keep an eye out for any unusual emails, text messages or phone calls, especially if they appear to come from the State of Washington or your financial institution. These could be social engineering attempts from hackers. Verify that the communication is legitimate by calling the organization back through an official phone number – one from the back of your credit or debit card or the agency’s website directory.
Check your credit report for errors or fraudulent activity. Report anything suspicious to the credit bureau and the organization that provided the information to the bureau. You can now check your report every week (through April 2021).
CONSIDER FILING YOUR TAXES EARLY
Get a jump on your taxes to prevent a scammer from using your Social Security number to file a fraudulent return. If you’ve already filed, the IRS will flag the second return as suspicious. If you wait, yours could be the one that gets flagged.
For more information from the Office of the Washington State Auditor (SAO), click here. To learn more about our recommended steps to protect yourself from fraud, click here.
*Note: This FAQ comes from the Office of the Washington State Auditor*
Frequently asked questions regarding a data breach at SAO’s third-party service provider:
Q: When will I know whether my personal information was involved in this data breach? How will I find out, and what will happen after that?
A: Personal notifications directly to people whose data was involved will begin soon. SAO is continuing to work with its insurance company and legal counsel on these direct notifications. Although we do not have a firm date right now, SAO is doing everything in its power to have this process begin quickly.
In the meantime, SAO has set up a webpage dedicated to providing the latest information on this incident. Please go to sao.wa.gov/breach2021.
Q: Will this incident, which involved people’s unemployment information, affect the status or processing of their unemployment claims?
A: The Employment Security Department (ESD) does not yet know if the data breach will affect benefit payments. The agency is advising people to continue to submit weekly claims as usual. ESD’s claim system was not involved in this incident. Additionally, if there is something affecting your benefit payment, please check your eServices account for alerts. ESD will notify you of any new issues affecting your benefit claims.
Q: Remind me again: What files were affected?
A: The investigation is ongoing. Here is some of the data we believe was affected:
Personal information of people who filed for unemployment claims from Jan. 1 to Dec. 10, 2020. In addition to members of the general public, this group includes many state employees, as well as people whose identity was used to file for claims fraudulently in early 2020. The data involves about 1.6 million claims and included the person’s name, social security number and/or driver’s license or state identification number, bank information, date of birth and place of employment. Personal information of a smaller number of people, including data held by the Department of Children, Youth and Families. Non-personal financial information and other data from local governments and state agencies.
Q: Why can’t you tell us more about what information was involved?
A: The identities and information of individual people are contained in voluminous data files. We are working diligently to extract the identification and information about each person who was affected. We will provide the right information to the right people at the right time. We are doing our best to balance the need for transparency and the need for security. We are committed to sharing all that we can when it is appropriate.
Q: Why was SAO in possession of the ESD data?
A: SAO was reviewing all claims data as part of an audit of a fraud incident that occurred at ESD in early 2020. Auditing in all its forms requires us to handle sensitive information – some financial, some personal. We strongly believe our work, and our access to that data, has helped improve government for Washingtonians.
Q: Have the police or other authorities been notified?
A: Yes. Appropriate law enforcement agencies have been notified. Our primary concern is making sure this incident is fully investigated, and we don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.
By Behnaz Mansouri, Senior Attorney, and Erin O’Brien, Legal Assistant
Established in 1984, the Unemployment Law Project prides itself on being a fierce advocate for those struggling to secure unemployment benefits. 2020 has been a painful and trying time for all of us. Full of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, political strife, and economic hardship, each and every one of us has made sacrifices and experienced unexpected losses. We want to acknowledge and honor those sacrifices and losses, whether it’s the mental framework for the life you thought you’d be living this year, the loss of your home and livelihood, or the devastating loss of a loved one. We also want to take a moment to express our gratitude and admiration for the people who make the expansion of our work possible.
With the aid of additional grant funding and increased donations this year, the Unemployment Law Project increased staffing capacity by more than 300%. Each month ULP staff receive and respond to hundreds of calls and emails from individuals needing assistance filing their claim, responding to overpayment notices, contacting ESD or seeking representation for their appeal hearing.
To further educate people on the constant evolution of pandemic unemployment assistance, ULP has hosted over 30 weekly webinars. Our webinars have also been inclusive for communities of color, conducted in various languages, and addressed the needs of specific professional groups. While our staffing size has increased, ULP continues to rely heavily on the contributions of private attorneys. Throughout 2020, twenty-five (25) attorneys participating in the ULP Pro Bono Program vigorously represented 118 people who appealed their denial of benefits. With the establishment of the Emergency UI Claimant Representation Program, managed by ULP and funded by the Office of Civil Legal Aid, over 60 private attorneys have energetically responded to our call to action for increased representation of clients during an appeal hearing.
The Unemployment Law Project is proud of the successful advocacy work we have accomplished this year to support Washingtonians, and we would not have been able to achieve these great heights without the partnerships built within our vibrant legal community.
A Small Bright Side of the 2020 Benefit Program Breakdowns: Media Attention to Claimants’ Plights
By Anne Paxton, Staff Attorney & Policy Director
It may have started with hiring our webmaster Andy Paroff in March. Acquiring a Zoom account and holding weekly webinars from April to the present probably helped. Participating in a lawsuit against the Employment Security Department might well have been the decisive factor. Whatever the triggers, ULP has been progressively upping its game in the media and on the web over this past year. And we believe that’s been a good thing for claimants.
Unemployment insurance is normally a side-issue in the press, although during recessions it can occupy center stage. But the sudden, massive surge of unemployment that the pandemic brought this year pushed UI and its failings in Washington state under an especially unsparing spotlight. Our Employment Security Department took a beating in the media as scam artists posing as legitimate claimants made off with more than $500 million in benefit payments and claims became bogged down by understaffed phone lines, IT problems, interminable processing delays, and a paralyzed appeals process.
Even though ULP focuses on Washington State claimants, it is the country’s only state legal aid organization devoted solely to unemployment issues. So alongside the flood of calls from claimants seeking help with benefits applications, ULP staff found ourselves getting calls for comment from dozens of outlets ranging from KING5 News, Politico, and the Seattle Times to NPR’s Marketplace, CNN, and the New York Times. In many cases, ULP clients agreed to tell their stories to reporters as well.
For senior attorney Behnaz Mansouri, an early caller was CNN, covering the claims processing delays back in March when two months seemed like a long wait. As she told the network, many claimants are non-native English speakers and do not hold traditional jobs, making it especially challenging for them to navigate the system. “It’s convoluted. It’s unclear. It’s unprecedented,” she said, adding that many people who receive denial letters may not return and apply for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. In August, the web news magazine Politico aired Behnaz’s concern about the loss of the $600 per week PUC benefit. The year “has been made bearable by this patchwork of financial assistance,” she said. “And now without it, I fear, it’s going to become unbearable.”
Andra Kranzler, an attorney working with ULP, explained to KIRO Radio in a July interview how applicants may be wrongly blamed for innocent errors. “You can’t really change your answer if you make a mistake or you don’t understand the question, and there’s not really an easy way to fix it,” Andra said. The inability to reach a human at ESD for explanation compounds the problem, she pointed out, since a single error on a form can land a person in the adjudication process or force them to appeal, cutting them off from funds for months.
Spokane’s Spokesman Review featured ULP Spokane managing attorney Juliana Repp in May, recounting how her tribal heritage and disabilities of a family member had helped fuel her passion for the underdog. Because so many claimants have found ESD unreachable, the ULP office often gives advice on the regulations and on the process of pursuing a claim—but at times also serves as a sympathetic sounding board for frustrated claimants, Julie explained to the newspaper. “They’re trying to figure out why the process hasn’t gone smoother, and they’re anxious because they don’t know where their check is.”
In June, Oregon Public Broadcasting focused on how offsetting benefits can have dire outcomes for low-income people and missing a piece of mail with a hearing date or appeals deadline could mean getting stuck with an overpayment of $500, $15,000, or more. “Then interest is added and wages are garnished. Bank accounts are attached, tax refunds are intercepted, and liens are placed on property,” ULP executive director John Tirpak told OPB. “And during the pandemic, in spite of our advocacy, they are still collecting overpayments in Washington state.” Since the local economy contracted, “Hundreds of people have called asking ULP for help every week,” the station also reported, quoting John. “Many people have run through their savings. Some have moved out of state.”
Perhaps the most surprising—but welcome—development for ULP has been our raised profile on social networks, thanks to Andy and to ULP Farmworker Fellow Lavena Staten. ULP has been actively doing outreach to print, broadcast, and online media to clarify the confusing alphabet soup of benefit programs and to explain fuzzy or downright misleading parts of the online benefit application. With help from law student and ULP intern Kristen Moran, Lavena broke new ground for ULP when she posted several quick TikTok videos with these goals in both English and Spanish—with some even going viral. At last count, Lavena’s video on overpayments had won 80,000 TikTok views and was picked up by a Seattle TV news station as well.
The pandemic continues, and although the unemployment spikes seen in March and April are unlikely to recur, the nation remains under a siege of joblessness. Amid the countless policy debates that lie ahead, ULP intends to do our best to keep the need for reform of unemployment benefit programs front and center.
Spokane Benefit a Success
Spokane Unemployment Law Project through Juliana Repp, Managing Attorney and John Tirpak, Executive Director, hosted a magical benefit event on January 23, 2020, at the Community Building. It was a wonderful night of food, music and over thirty unique auction items donated by the Spokane community. Against a backdrop of music by the renowned Craig Catlett Jazz Quartet, participants enjoyed a delightful array of appetizers from Fery’s catering with wine, beer and soft drinks. Mikayla Goodwin and Andy Paroff, ULP interns, were integral in making this night a success. Our sponsors included: Breean Beggs, Paukert and Troppmann LLC; Winston & Cashatt; Machinists Union, District 751; Cooney Law Offices; United Steelworkers Local 338; and the Law Office of D.C. Cronin. Former managing attorneys, Laurie Powers and Monica Holland and numerous former interns, also joined us at the event. Thank you to all, who made this such an enjoyable evening.
Rising to the Challenge: Working at the Unemployment Law Project in Unprecedented Times
By Rachel Platin, Spokane Lead Legal Intern
Like almost everything lately, working at the Unemployment Law Project was a different experience this year than anyone could have expected. Like many other students, I had a different legal internship lined up for the summer – only for COVID to cancel it at the last minute. Thankfully, I got connected with the Managing Attorney at the Spokane office, Juliana Repp, and was able to start working at ULP.
Due to the safety concerns surrounding the pandemic, our office has been working almost fully remotely. In fact, I have been working for ULP since May and have not met my coworkers in person or even been to the ULP office yet. Not your typical internship experience. However, what I have learned and the people I have been able to help have made it an incredibly rewarding experience. I have been really inspired by the adaptation and resilience of the Spokane office during this time. We have several weekly zoom meetings and frequent phone calls and emails; I often forget that I am not in the office with everyone. It is helpful that all our hearings are held on the phone anyways, as is standard practice for the Office of Administrative Hearings. I worked on a Superior Court brief earlier this summer and I was able to have the opportunity to be present at the hearing via Zoom. Had it been normal times, I likely would not have been able to attend the hearing as it would have been on the other side of the state. I am looking forward to rotating with other interns and getting to spend some time in the office (safely)!
We are seeing an unprecedented number of unemployment claims during the past 8 months. More and more people are out of work and most of the cases we have been getting are somewhat COVID-related. Very rarely do we get cases that are just natural, cyclical unemployment issues. I find that it is often difficult to separate the emotions and the work from each other, as the claimants who are calling our office for help are becoming more and more desperate for help. I have had many claimants who are calling from their cars where they now live, have kids doing online school in the background, or are down to their last dollar to feed their family. Most phone calls we get are from people just so glad to get a real person on the phone, as it is virtually impossible to get ahold of the Employment Security Department with the number of claims the agency is dealing with. I am thankful for the existence of the Unemployment Law Project and the incredible work that this organization does to help those who need it the most. I have learned the most from hearing my claimants’ stories. I am incredibly interested in how societies function and how every person plays a part in society and hearing the personal stories from claimants in every single industry has been very eye-opening. Most of these workers are the backbone of society, including truck drivers, suppliers, hospitality workers, etc. and I have gained a great deal of appreciation for them during the pandemic that I will be sure to hold moving forward. I am thankful to be in a position to help advocate for their unemployment benefits and also work on several policy projects with ULP to try and improve the unemployment insurance system in the future.
Historic Victory for Washington Workers
By Lavena Staten, SU Farmworker Fellow
Last month, the Washington Supreme Court decided that dairy workers in Washington are entitled to overtime pay when they work over 40 hours in a week. This decision was monumental. Excluding agricultural and domestic workers from overtime pay and other worker protections stems directly from slavery, a history acknowledged in Justice Steven González’s concurring opinion. At the state level, Washington’s Minimum Wage Act explicitly excludes agricultural workers from overtime. RCW 49.46.130(2)(g). Meanwhile, a shortage of agricultural laborers in Washington means fewer workers working longer hours.
Now, the highest court in the state has determined that excluding dairy workers from overtime laws violates the privilege and immunities clause of the Washington State Constitution. The majority opinion states that “all Washington workers in dangerous industries” have a fundamental right “to receive workplace health and safety protections.” The Court reasoned such protections dampen employer desires to force employees to work excessive hours for too low of pay. While the court focuses on non-seasonal dairy workers, the underlying statutory issue and additional analysis may apply more broadly to all agricultural workers. Meanwhile, the dissent argued that no workers have a right to overtime under the Washington constitution.
And agricultural employers responded with empty threats of increased automation and a disproportionate impact on small farms. However, many of Washington’s biggest crops–including hops, cherries, pears, and berries–require delicate picking that can only be achieved through human labor. Further, small farms are in much more danger from increasing concentration and consolidation of agricultural inputs, processing, food manufacturing, and food retail companies, which use their size to control small farms and eventually lead to their downfall.
Requiring overtime protections for farmworkers is a monumental step in confronting the racism and inequality in our economy, but it is not the final hurdle for those who work in agriculture: farmworkers are constantly exposed to toxic pesticides on the job and they are ten times more likely to die at work than the average worker. Nationally, farmworker families make $17,000 per year on average. Washington and the federal government must do more to protect the workers who feed us.
Advocating for Clients During a Pandemic
By Juliana Repp, Managing Attorney, Spokane ULP
When Covid-19 hit, I wasn’t sure how I would train the incoming interns/externs for the Spokane ULP Office due to limitations on occupancy in the Community Building. We improvised and held many zoom meetings. Claimants were patient and understood that part of what we do at ULP is teach and mentor interns on how to represent claimants during all facets of their cases including representing them at their appeal hearings within the Office of Administrative Hearings. Claimants had no qualms about six interns sitting in on zoom meetings, pre-hearing conferences and hearings, to learn how to advocate for them. In the midst of a months-long pandemic, teaching and working by zoom, email and limited in-office work, a formidable legal aid team was formed.
Glory Crocco Glory is a second-year law student at University of Mississippi School of Law. Glory began working at ULP in May 2020 and noted that working with the Spokane office team has been the best part of her experience, along with being able to help claimants across the state.
Emily Ganz Emily Ganz is a second-year student at Gonzaga University School of Law. Emily loves working at the Unemployment Law Project, where she can closely communicate with clients and hone her skills as an advocate.
Sarah Bodisco Sarah is an undergraduate at Gonzaga studying Economics and Political Science. In her free time, you can find her reading (her favorite authors are John Krakaur and Kurt Vonnegut), biking the Centennial Trail, or lounging by the ocean/river/any available body of water. Sarah started at ULP in June of 2020, and noted that it has been a really unique experience to only have worked and interacted with other staff virtually. She believes it has pushed us all to be extra diligent and work hard for our community in need.
Rachel Platin Rachel is a 3L student at Gonzaga University School of Law. A native of Seattle, Rachel has fallen in love with Spokane and intends to stay on this side of the state after graduation and work in employment law. She began working at ULP in May 2020 and loves her coworkers at the Spokane office and helping as many people as possible with their unemployment issues. In her free time, she loves hiking, skiing, biking, and spending time with friends and family.
Wesley Groot Wesley is a second-year student at Gonzaga University School of Law. Wesley started working with the Unemployment Law Project in May of 2020, and has found the work to be incredibly fulfilling, especially during a time with record unemployment. He enjoys working for a firm dedicated to lending assistance to those in need.
Jakob Salazar Jakob is a second-year student at Gonzaga University School of Law. He joined the ULP team in May 2020 and was immediately moved by the compassion and dedication of my colleagues, as well as the often heartbreaking stories of our clients. He is continually inspired by the perseverance and equanimity of so many of our clients as they struggle through the unprecedented unemployment-related difficulties resulting from the global pandemic. He feels like ULP provides a necessary service to the community by giving a voice to unemployed workers and helping them get back on their feet, and he is proud to contribute to that service.
Thanks from the Director
By John Tirpak, Executive Director
2020 has been an unprecedented year for ULP. We have been able to increase our client services due to your support.
We would like to thank the Sheridan Law Firm for their work on the Petition for the Writ of Mandamus. Special thanks to Jack Sheridan, Justin Abassi, Andra Kranzler, and Tony Dondero. The court hasn’t ruled on the case yet, but we expect a ruling in the coming year.
Special thanks to the Office of Civil Legal Aid, the Legal Foundation of Washington, King County, and the Washington State Labor Council for increased support during the COVID-19 crisis.
Our Brew Review Onvine event was a big success. Thanks to our sponsors: MacDonald Hoague & Bayless, Barnard Iglitzen & Lavitt, Terrell Marshall Law Group, Breskin Johnson & Townsend, Chipmonkey Wine, and Revolution Repair.
If you want to support the work of ULP, please contact me at email@example.com for more information.
ULP STAFF John Tirpak, Executive Director/Attorney Juliana Repp, Spokane Managing Attorney Anne Paxton, Staff Attorney & Policy Director Hyun-Ji Lee, Staff Attorney Behnaz Mansouri, Senior Attorney Katelyn Morgaine, Staff Attorney Meg Bridewell, Staff Attorney Andra Kranzler, Staff Attorney Lavena Staten, SU Farmworker Fellow George Leach, UW Employment Equity & Access Fellow Ahmed Abdi, Outreach Coordinator Jason Arends, Office Manager/Paralegal Erin O’Brien, Legal Assistant Stephan Elmer, Legal Assistant Jill Cornaggia, Spokane Paralegal
ULP BOARD OF DIRECTORS Joseph Shaeffer, President Jennifer Murray, Vice President Jeneé Jahn, Treasurer Eric Gonzalez, Secretary Amanda Ballantyne Lillian Kaide Andres Munoz Erin Pettigrew Jennifer Yogi
ULP VOLUNTEERS Aaron Chatterjee Abe Ritter Alex Ellis Alexia Diorio Alexis Chouinard Alexis Mei Alisa Smith Alizeh Bhojani Almira Jane De La Cruz-Butler Alyssa Krueger Andy Paroff Andy Sacks Angie Weiss Anna Marie Shearlock Annie Holden Asha Abdulle Ashley Gomez Austin Field Behnaz Mansouri Ben Ushka Brian Carmichael Caleb Carr Carly Zipper Chenelle Love Chloe Merino Chris Hendry Chrissy Svihus Clive Pontusson Cortney Feniello David Ringold David Totten Dean Lawrence Petitta Deborah Sundblad Deepak George Devin Hogan Devon Nikfard Dustin Vail Elizabeth Clampitt Ellie White Emily Ganz Eric Nusser Erin O’Brien Estey Chen Gabrielle Ayala-Montgomery Gelline Nicolas Glory Crocco Gregory Skidmore Hanna Choi Hannah Aho Hannah Driscoll Ian Cairns Iris Yan Isabel Skilton Isabell Rocha Jaclyn Tani Jagdeep Sekhon Jakob Salazar Jaqueline Beltran Jennifer Seely Jessica Cable Jessie Miglarese Joel Nichols John Curry Joseph Sims Julia Fleming Justine Taylor Yarington Kathryn Penrod Katie Dimsho Kay Fuhlman Kelly Rutledge Kristen Moran Kyle Madsen Lauren Berkowitz Lauren Mamaghani LeAnn McDonald Lin Li Madeline Crowley Marielle Maxwell Maya Itah Megan Lee Mikayala Goodwin Mitchell West Molly Utter Morgan Robertson Nasrin Chaudhry Nate Blanchard Nathanial Putnam Nicole Lundholm Nina Mesihovic Oliver Batkoff Olivia Bloom Pam Crone Rachel Horvitz Rachel Platin Robert Bulanda Roberto White Romana Bruderer-Schwab Sara Suryan Sarah Bodisco Sayer Rippey Selena Ng Silvan Schuttner Sophie Geguchadze Spencer Satin Stepen Jay Hatton Stephan Elmer Victoria Banks Victoria Ha Nguyen Wesley Groot Yinbing Lin Ysabel Mullarky Zoe Wood
A question in the applications process has created confusion and kept some people from receiving unemployment insurance (UI) or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. It has to do with a basic requirement of PUA and UI in general: You must be available to work. This document is not intended to give legal advice. Instead, it is meant to provide some guidance while applying for benefits. Please view the complete guide below or watch this video for more information!
Some questions in the application process have created confusion and kept some people from applying for (and receiving) Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. Because of this issue, they are not being considered for benefits that they otherwise could be getting. So, we created this handy video and PDF guide to learn more about the process. This video and document are not intended as legal advice. It is meant to provide some guidance in applying for PUA. If you have any questions, please contact the Unemployment Law Project.
Did you miss our June 17 webinar on citizens’ rights while protesting, featuring Nikkita Oliver and the National Lawyers Guild? No worries! We created an infographic with some of the most important information on it! Please note, this infographic is not intended to be legal advice.
On June 5, 2020, the Sheridan Law Firm in Seattle, WA filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the Supreme Court of the State of Washington. The writ asks the Court to compel the Employment Security Department (ESD) to process unemployment benefit claims and make claim payments to Washington’s unemployed in a timely manner as required by law. The ESD did not have the legal authority to forestall and stop payments to thousands of legitimate and qualified claimants as it fell victim to an imposter fraud investigation. ESD, while seeking to verify claimant identities, did so through inept and unsecured channels which has caused further delay in benefit payments and harm to the claimants. This is not a class action lawsuit. If the court rules in favor of the petitioners, it will impact all claimants who are waiting for their claim to be processed. The Unemployment Law Project (ULP) is a party to the filing because we are a non-profit legal services office that serves to protect workers’ rights and represents workers who are denied unemployment benefits or whose benefits were initially approved but later challenged by the employer. ULP is not representing claimants in this matter but is supporting the petition by taking declarations from claimants who are waiting for payments to be made. For more information, please call us at (206) 441-9178 or toll free at 1 (888) 441-9178. Please note we are experiencing high call volumes at this time.
You can read Sheridan’s arguments and the declarations in the case and news stories about the writ at Sheridan’s website.
The Unemployment Law Project unequivocally supports the Black community and the Black Lives Matter movement. The senseless murders and brutalization of the Black community through police violence is a direct consequence of systemic racism and white supremacy that cannot continue. We mourn the loss of George Floyd, Charleena Lyles, Breonna Taylor, Manuel Ellis, Shaun Fuhr, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, and so many more. We are deeply angered and want justice for all the hurts inflicted upon Black communities. We are committed to supporting the Black community and all other marginalized communities by making our work inclusive and providing equitable access to all identities. We want to ensure that everyone within this state knows their rights and has access to the resources they are entitled to without prejudice or injustice. We will continue to fight for this through the work that we do.
In the meantime, we will be taking actionable steps to support sustainable change in our community and disseminate resources that will hopefully help to protect the health and safety of everyone who is bravely advocating and fighting for justice. We will be hosting a webinar with the National Lawyers Guild to help inform protestors of their rights on June 17th at 5:00 PM, recorded here. In April, we co-hosted a webinar with the Seattle King County NAACP, recorded here, regarding unemployment denials and the Black community. We will continue this work and grow our resources and support for all people of color in the state.