Saturday, September 17, 2011

Unemployment Fraud for Filing While out of the United States?

The Utah Department of Workforce Services has apparently begun a campaign of alleging that unemployment applicants are committing fraud when applying for benefits while out of the United States.  Relying on Utah Administrative Code Rule R994-403-112c(2)(i), the Department of Workforce Services has claimed that any travel outside of the United States makes a person ineligible to receive unemployment benefits even if (1) the claimant was on a job deferral and (2) could immediately return to the United States to accept work.  Apparently questioning the interpretation and enforceability of this rule prior to August 2, 2011, the Department of Workforce Services amended the rule in early August to include language that purportedly prohibits employees from claiming benefits for period they spend outside of the United States.

The Department of Workforce Services began this campaign after it updated its technology to identify the ip addresses of computers and telephones from which claims were being made.  The problem with this technology, of course, is that it (1) does not account for anonymizing software nor (2) does it identify that a claimant was actually in the same locality for the proceeding week, the week for which the claim is being made.

Although no published Utah case has dealt with this issue, the issue is ripe for judicial determination, particularly given the penalty that is assessed against a claimant---repayment of the amount claimed, plus a penalty in the same amount, and disqualification from future payments.