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  • Writer's pictureMr. Jamoke

Unemployment Department Appeals Court

You know what made me feel like a winner recently? Receiving a summons to appear at the unemployment department’s appeals court. My first thought wasn’t even: “What the hell do they want from me?” Rather, my brain went to: “Wait, the unemployment office has its own judicial system? It even has an appeals court!”. Who knew?” After mulling over this revelation for a bit I decided to figure out what the heck they wanted from me.

As soon as I saw my name next to the “claimant” section and the company I 1099-ed for under the “appellant” section I knew exactly what had happened. Bureaucratic Buffoonery. Let me give you the backstory. When I got my job offer a few months ago I called up the Unemployment Office and told them to stop paying me my benefits because I had landed a job. The unemployment guru, no joke, gave me a lecture about how “looking for work” can be loosely interpreted and that since my new job wouldn’t start for a few more months, I should keep “looking” until my job starts. Fine by me. If you want to give me money (especially after all the supplemental state taxes I had to pay earlier in the year), I’ll take it. Soon after this conversation I picked up some 1099 work . In early July I called the unemployment office again and told them that they really should stop paying me cause I can’t even pretend like I’m looking for work anymore. The lady insisted on paying me one last week of benefits and then she said she’d turn off the bum’s spigot I’d been sucking from for several months.

A month later I get an aggressive voicemail from the employment department demanding I call them back in a certain timeframe otherwise I’d be in some sort of trouble. I call in and find out that they are very confused as to who my last employer was, who I 1099-ed for, and who I just started working for. I explain, everything seems fine. Two days later, same voicemail, same sequence. Three days after that, a third conversation is held. It’s like talking to a freaking parrot. The problem is that the Parrot must key in a few details into some IT record keeping system and it clearly isn’t capable of this herculean task.

So here we are, a few months later, and as I read through my summons and the 80 paged dossier that accompanies it, I learned that one of the parrots typed in the wrong company in the wrong place. Thus, the unemployment office has been badgering the 1099 company aggressively to match my final unemployment benefit. Keep in mind that we’re talking about a 400-dollar payment of which less than half is subsidized by the company that laid you off. This whole freaking dispute is about $150-$180. Printing and mailing me the legal correspondence and evidentiary material presented by the appellant (the 1099 company) probably cost the government 50 bucks. I also can’t help but giggle knowing that some cat with 200k in law school debt and bright eyed ambitions of “upholding justice” in his new job as company counsel is spending dozens of hours defending an erroneously filed “claim” in the amount of 150 bucks. Candidly, this whole affair makes Judge Judy look like the Supreme Court. The unpaid rent and ‘who keyed whose car’ disputes have infinitely more gravitas than this boondoggle.

Last week I flew in early from my work trip to attend my appeals session. It’s not a real courthouse (I know that you’re shocked by this), rather it’s a crappy office building with some breakout rooms. There is however a “real” judge presiding over the “inquiry” and a video camera in the room that records people as they give their testimony. I’d say it was all a waste of time except for the fact that I’m confident we just made history. Never, in the history of any judicial proceeding, have plaintiff and defendant agreed upon every single set of events and harbored zero animus towards each other. Furthermore, never in the history of legal disputes have neither plaintiff, nor defendant nor judge had any clue why we were there or what would come out of the session. I straightforwardly asked the Judge at the end of our session: “What’s actually at stake here?” She said that she doesn’t know. Nobody knows how this plays out. I think one of the Parrots I spoke with will peck at a Magic 8 Ball for a while and I’ll get a letter in the mail later this year with the verdict: “Reply Hazy, Try Again Later”

When the session concluded the Judge told me to leave as fast as possible because she can’t actually stop the recording and close the session until I leave. After I gathered my belongings I went over to thank her and shake her hand but she ushered me away angrily and reiterated that she wants me to leave ASAP so that she can officially end the session. I can’t blame her for the poor attitude. It must suck to have your kids ask you if your job is like Judge Judy; only for you to begrudgingly respond that J.J. deals with way more important shit.

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