Oregonians Hit Employment Dept. With Class Action Suit

About twice as many Oregonians are stuck in unemployment limbo pending benefits adjudication as publicly reported by Oregon Employment Acting Director David Gerstenfeld this week, according to a lawsuit filed in Multnomah County Court by The Oregon Law Center and certified as a class-action suit last week.  

The lawsuit may include 100,000 Oregonians, according to the Statesman Journal 

Unemployment adjudication is undertaken when there stands a discrepancy between the amount of income reported by an individual and the amount of money paid to an individual by an employer.  

Gerstenfeld said last week that there were 41,700 individuals stuck somewhere in the unemployment pipeline because of the adjudication process. But a declaration made Oct. 16 by Oregon Unemployment Department Unemployment Insurance Division Director Lindsi Leahy clearly contradicts that, stating that there were over 96,000 such individuals in adjudication.  

The lawsuit claims that the state presumes the first 41,000 individuals will need adjudication while the adjudication status of the remaining of the 96,000 are yet to be determined.  

Representatives of the action filed a request this past Friday to order the issuance of final decisions in cases of adjudication filed before June 1 by Nov. 15; those filed after Sept. 30 by Jan. 1; and for the state unemployment division to return to adherence to the federally-mandated standard of delivering benefits within a month. 

The lawsuit also requests the state report rates of claim denial in addition to claims paid. 

Of the more than 840,000 applications for unemployment received by the state since March, about 11% are under scrutiny, Leahy said according to the Statesman-Journal 

Federal standards also dictate that adjudications are completed within just three weeks of the application filing date, and the lawsuit alleges that recipients of benefits have waited four months on average to receive them.  

Gerstenfeld said that while many claims are stuck in the unemployment pipeline, about a third of those received unemployment benefits under the Benefits While You Wait program and that the adjudication process generally takes only a few weeks. 

Claimants in the lawsuit say that isn’t accurate. 

Leahy said claimants filed between March and July waited three to 25 weeks on average for a decision, and the lawsuit claims some defendants waited in excess of seven months.   

By Gabriel Perry