portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary portland metro

economic justice | government

Oregon Unemployment is a Scam

How the state of Oregon is making money by retroactively denying claims and imposing penalties on citizens unable to fight back.
In January of 2009 I was wrongfully terminated from Affiliated Computer Services Inc (ACS, owned by Xerox). My wife, who had also worked at ACS at the time had had some health problems and I had missed some work due to my assisting her. I recieved two write ups for my attendence and was told that if I missed anymore days then I would be fired. Nearly two months later, I hadn't missed any days, and was taken into a conference room and told I was being terminated for absenteeism.

But that wasn't the real reason of my termination. At that time our site, a call center for Sprint on se 181st ave, was changing the way that employees were paid, from an hourly wage around $10.00 to a pay per call system. This means that the lower ones handle time (the more calls you take a day) the more money one would make. In preparation for this ACS began massive layoffs of every employee with the lowest handle times. Even longtime employees were fired, I remember one of there long time employees (2 years, which is long for ACS) being fired for missing work because he was in a car accident. It was the first day he had missed in over a year. ACS was using any and all excuses to lay off employees by saying they violated policies in order to not be liable to pay for unemployment benefits.

In addition to my being fired, my wife's hours were cut day after day in an attempt to make her miss a shift to give them an excuse to fire her. She never missed a shift during this time, even though they had cut her hours from 40 to 8 hours a week. She would show up for her shift and they would send her home, saying that they were fully staffed that day and didn't need her. When they realized she wasn't missing shifts, they took her into a conference room and an operations supervisor named Kenneth Wood or Woody told her that the company could do anything that they wanted because of the recession (this was in April 2009) and that she had two choices, either they could fire her (with no reason given) and she would recieve an awful reference from ACS or she could voluntarily quit and recieve a very good reference. Since they were only letting her work 8 hours a week, but still having her waste her time coming in before they sent her home, she quit in order to get a good reference.

During this time we both filed and recieved unemployment insurance, my wife received about $2000 and I about $4000. I found work in July 2009, and my wife in June 2009 and stopped receiving unemployment insurance. A couple of months later I received a letter from the unemployment department stating that due to an investigation I would have any future unemployment claims penalized and had to pay back the $4000 with penalties and interest. So far, a year later, I've paid $1800 and only, $600 of which has been applied to the principal, so I still owe $4000 (the original amount) to this day. Because I had no paper work or facts to back up my claim that many employees were laid off due to them effectively firing their best (and theoretically highest paid) employees I could not appeal the decision.

Now, over a year after receiving her last unemployment check, they have now sent my wife the exact same form letter and are asking for the total amount paid and penalties from when she was forced to resign. She has no audio recordings or paper work to back up what she was told, but we've decided that she should at least attempt to appeal this decision.

I'm writing this, wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience with the Oregon Unemployment department. It seems like a win-win for the business and the unemployment department. The businesses get carte blanche to lay off workers while calling it something else therefore not having to have money siphoned from their unemployment benefits pool. At the same time the state of Oregon is giving people money who need it to survive and then retroactively denying it in order to make money with interest and penalties on people who can't afford it. It's a case of money once again being stolen from the little guy. It reminds me of loan sharking and it disgusts me that this is what our country has come to. Your thought?