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UIA Class-Action Picks up Steam Politically and in Media

UIA photo for Pitt newsletterIn September 2015 firm attorneys filed a class-action lawsuit against the State of Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA). The complaint, which was filed in the Michigan Court of Claims, alleges that the automated system used for detecting and adjudicating unemployment insurance fraud, falsely accuses thousands of innocent claimants. According to the lawsuit, the state's reliance on the automated system "deprives UIA claimants of due process and fair treatment because it determines guilt without providing notice, without proving guilt and without affording claimants an opportunity to be heard before penalties are imposed." [caption id="attachment_1383" align="alignleft" width="237"]Jennifer Lord Photo March 2015 PMP&R Attorney Jennifer Lord[/caption] "We've interviewed over 500 people who UIA falsely accused of fraud, were not provided proper notice of the fraud accusations, and then subjected to unlawful wage garnishments and income refund seizures," said firm attorney Jennifer Lord. Lord says, despite recent claims made by UIA that problems with its automated system have been addressed, the firm is interviewing people who are still reporting unlawful seizures of tax refunds and assessments of huge fines and penalties -- some in excess of $80,000. According to Lord, progress of the lawsuit has been slow but steady, as the state continues efforts to derail or further delay the class action. But, Lord said, the allegations made by hundreds of former claimants and detailed in the lawsuit were recently cited and supported in a number of public pronouncements, including: *Michigan's Auditor General issued a report in February 2016 saying that UIA was wrong 92 percent of the time it made fraud and misrepresentation determinations. *In another April 2016 report, the state's Office of the Auditor General was critical of the agency's claimant services and communication efforts. The report noted that in some weeks UIA did not answer 90 percent of hundreds of thousands of claimants calls. It also said that correspondence to claimants was repeatedly sent to incorrect addresses, even after being returned as undeliverable. *On April 25, 2013, U.S. House Rep. Sander Levin wrote an open letter to Gov. Snyder urging him to review the UIA's claims of fraud and fully reimburse those citizens harmed by inaccurate determinations and collection. Rep. Levin is the ranking member of the House Committee on Ways & Means, which has jurisdiction over the federal-state system of unemployment compensation. *The Detroit Free Press and Detroit News published editorials on consecutive days which were critical of the same UIA fraud determination methods, inadequate notification of claimants and other agency shortcomings. Both newspapers called for swift action to fix the problems. "It's a gratifying to have such great support from credible sources. The increased visibility will help us to continue building our case and reach more potential class members," said Lord. Additional information at UIAFraudClassAction.com.

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