ATLANTA -- Citing repeated failures to follow Georgia and federal law governing the payment and processing of unemployment insurance benefits claims, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Atlanta-based law firm Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore LLP (BME) have filed a class action lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) in Fulton County over extreme delays experienced by countless under- or unemployed Georgians in the processing of their unemployment insurance benefits claims.
The pandemic has led to devastating levels of unemployment in Georgia. At its peak, unemployment in Georgia rose to 12.6%, remaining at more than 5% as of January 2021. Congress allocated $67 million to Georgia to assist GDOL with three temporary unemployment insurance benefits created under the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Yet Georgians are still waiting months for their claims to be processed while also experiencing extreme delays in receiving payments or having their appeals heard when their claims are rejected. These delays violate both state and federal law, according to the lawsuit.
The GDOL’s system has failed at every level, and the lawsuit thus seeks relief for three separate classes of individuals who have experienced extreme delays in:
• receiving initial determinations regarding benefits;
• appeals, and
• the actual payment benefits.
This lawsuit is brought by four plaintiffs who have experienced delays and have claims that are representative and typical of the class wide claims. For example, Plaintiff Von King has been waiting almost a year to have her appeal heard. All of the other plaintiffs and class members have experienced months of uncertainty while trying to pay rent and utilities, feed themselves and their families, and pay other regular expenses like medical bills and car payments.
The plaintiffs ask for a declaration that the GDOL’s extreme delays violate Georgia’s statutory requirement that the GDOL act “promptly”; for an injunction to compel the GDOL to comply with that state law and to enforce the plaintiffs’ federal due process rights; and for monetary damages.
The lawsuit is also seeking to enforce the plaintiffs’ federal due process rights and to recover monetary damages.
The following is a statement from Emily Early, senior supervising staff attorney for the SPLC’s Economic Justice Project.
“The pandemic created the largest unemployment crisis in generations, and throughout this trying time GDOL has refused to follow the law in providing help to people who desperately need it. State and federal law guarantee promptness and due process rights and GDOL has ignored those rights, as well as its duty to serve the public in an extreme time of need. A brief scan of the GDOL’s own social media pages reveals innumerable posts highlighting the extent of the GDOL’s failures, inaccessibility, and severe delays in determining eligibility, paying benefits, and scheduling appeal hearings. This catastrophe cannot continue.”
In addition to Ms. Early, the plaintiffs are represented by Jason Carter and Juliana Mesa of BME. A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.
Please contact GA.UIB.firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story of delay with the GDOL.