Recently, the Des Moines Register published an article written by the AP (Associated Press) about me receiving unemployment benefits. Here is the article, in case you didn’t see it. Unfortunately, the unnamed author of this article was either ignorant to how unemployment benefits work in Iowa, or they had a specific slant they wanted to put on the article – a habit of poor journalism that has become all too common lately. The author made is sound as though I knowingly collected benefits that I didn’t deserve. People who know me, will know that is not the case. Here are the facts that the Associated Press author didn’t report.
After I was fired by the State of Iowa, I did apply for unemployment benefits. This involves filling out an online form and answering several questions – including whether I was fired, laid off, or voluntarily quit. I answered that I was fired.
The next step in unemployment benefit claims when someone is fired is a “Fact Finding Interview.” This is essentially a phone hearing attended by an arbitrator from Iowa Workforce Development, the employer (a representative of the State of Iowa) and the employee (myself). I took part in this hearing, as did a representative of the State of Iowa. The state was allowed to give their reasons for firing me, I was asked several questions about what led to the firing. Just because someone is fired, it does not mean that they are not eligible for benefits. There is a specific standard that the employer must show to be met for the employee to not be eligible. About a week after the hearing, I received a letter stating that the Iowa Workforce Development Arbitrator ruled that I WAS eligible for benefits.
At that point, I started filing for unemployment benefits, making sure to meet the requirements of applying for a specific number of jobs each week, and reporting any hours worked for other employers each week. The State of Iowa decided to appeal the arbitrator’s decision.
The appeal hearing was held over the phone before Administrative Law Judge Stephanie Callahan. The State asked for a continuance on the original appeal date, delaying it by several weeks because they weren’t initially ready. They then entered two exhibits into this hearing less than 4 hours before the hearing was to take place. I had never seen either of these documents, they were not included as part of the official file on my investigation. One of the documents was a Word document with no title, no author and it had never been published anywhere. Yet, Judge Callahan allowed the exhibits into the record. It is her ruling that was reported on by the Associated Press, but they made no mention that a previous arbitrator had ruled against the State of Iowa.
As the article reported, Judge Callahan ruled in favor of the State of Iowa, reversing the previous decision. Truthfully, I can’t blame this judge for making the decision she did. After all – it has been well publicized that the Branstad administration has penalized and reportedly fired judges who testified that they were pressured to rule on the side of employers over employees. (Here is link to the Des Moines Register article about this issue). She is an employee of the State of Iowa – she had a choice of ruling against her own employer, or against me. I’m sure she wants to keep her job.
Her decision is being appealed.
Now you have all the facts.
NOTE: (After the initial publication of this post, the author of the article contacted me and has stated that he does understand the unemployment process, but chose not to include any other information due to space limitations. While I understand that news articles are limited in size, leaving out the single statement that this ruling was the result of an appeal significantly changed the nature of the entire article. This is an example of inaccurate, slanted journalism in my opinion, and should not be tolerated).