BALTIMORE — A group of Marylanders are suing Maryland Secretary of Labor Tiffany Robinson for failing to administer unemployment insurance benefits according to federal law.
The lawsuit, filed by attorneys with the Public Justice Center, alleges that Maryland is not paying claimants within a timely manner.
The Social Security Act defines "timely" as issuing a determination on initial claims within 21 days. U.S. Department of Labor data shows Maryland made a timely determination of claimants' initial eligibility for unemployment benefits just 43.2% of the time, violating the law 56.8% of the time. Out of 53 total jurisdictions, Maryland ranks 44th.
According to the Public Justice Center, six plaintiffs in the lawsuit have waited months or longer to find out if they’re eligible for benefits, had their benefits stopped for long periods of time without explanation, or were later issued an overpayment notice without explanation or an opportunity to refute the department’s claim.
The lawsuit refers to WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii’s report from October that found there were 87,568 overpayment cases in Maryland since January 1, 2020. Of those, 99.6 percent, or 87,229 cases, were considered non-fraudulent.
“There is nothing I can do to repair the damage to my health resulting from going without needed medications for months,” said Mark Gorres, a plaintiff in the case.
“Unemployment insurance is a critical safety net for workers, enabling them to buy food and pay rent, and tiding them over until their next job. The system must work for people, not against them. Marylanders cannot afford for the unemployment insurance system to utterly fail. We’re suing to fix the system,” said Tyra Robinson, an attorney representing plaintiffs in the case.
A spokesperson with the Maryland Department of Labor emailed WMAR-2 News this statement:
"Since the beginning of this unprecedented pandemic, Maryland Labor has paid-out over $14 billion in unemployment benefits to Maryland residents. Coming on the heels of a similar lawsuit that was just dismissed by a sitting judge, this meritless action will only divert valuable taxpayer funds and resources from efforts to help our fellow citizens get back on their feet and into the workforce."
A judge recently dismissed a previous unemployment class action lawsuit filed against Governor Larry Hogan and Secretary Robinson.
Lawyers with the Unemployed Workers Union accused State Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson of unlawfully delaying the process of incoming claims to avoid payouts to those out of work.
The Baltimore City Circuit Court judge said the responsibility for resolving the issues described in the lawsuit falls under the Department.
“The General Assembly simply did not provide a separate remedy for Plaintiffs to bring suit under Title 8,” wrote Judge John Nugent.