EJC Partners with Legal Aid to Assist Clients with Unemployment Compensation Cases
Clients come into the EJC’s Workers’ Rights Clinic with a variety of employment law problems, and the EJC is fortunate to be able to refer some cases to experts in various areas. Drake Hagner at Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia is one such expert we are very grateful to be able to go to with Unemployment Compensation issues.
Recently, Drake helped Ms. Gomez*, a monolingual Spanish-speaking grandmother, discharge a $3,727 overpayment. Years before, after Ms. Gomez lost her job as a part-time housekeeper when her employer passed away, she applied for unemployment benefits. The Department of Employment Services granted her application. After 11 months of receiving benefits, the agency reversed their original decision in an English-only notice that provided very little explanation. The agency demanded the return of all the unemployment benefits she had received. For two years, Ms. Gomez repeatedly tried to get information about how the overpayment accrued and how she could challenge it. During that time, she became sick with cancer and was unable to work. With her very low income, she was unable to pay back the overpayment. After her DC income taxes were seized to pay back part of the debt, she came to the Employment Justice Center.
The EJC helped Ms. Gomez draft a pro se letter to challenge the overpayment. After further assessment, the clinic referred the case to Legal Aid, who investigated the case and submitted a supplemental letter to the agency challenging the overpayment on multiple grounds, including that Ms. Gomez received inadequate notice of her overpayment under the DC Language Access Act. Nine months later, a waiver request was granted. Ms. Gomez is extremely relieved to have the burden of the unjustified debt lifted, allowing her to focus her limited attention on her family and her health.
(*) Name changed to protect the client’s privacy.