Update: State Decides Man No Longer Needs To Repay $19K In Unemployment Benefits

Back in April we told you about a New Jersey man who was stuck in a bureaucratic battle between church and state, as he tried to figure out why he needed to repay more than $19,000 in unemployment benefits he’d believed he was entitled to. After pulling their heads out of the sand at the shore, officials have realized the man was right all along.

For those coming late to this story: The man had previously worked at a company owned by a Catholic diocese in Camden, NJ. When he started at the job, his employer did not enjoy non-profit status, meaning it had to pay and collect unemployment benefit payments from employees.

At some point while he worked there, things changed and the company became a non-profit operation. However, the company continued to take out unemployment insurance payments from the man’s paycheck.

For some reason, it wasn’t until after the man had received $19,295 in unemployment benefits that the state realized there was an issue.

The problem was compounded when the diocese tried to claim that it stopped collecting unemployment insurance payments from staffers when it switched the service business to non-profit status. However, the man had documentation showing he made payments for several months after the status change.

The diocese also mistakenly told the state that the man had been employed at a non-profit, diocese-owned nursing facility. This led the state to believe he should never have received unemployment benefits in the first place.

When we told you the man’s story, his initial appeal had been denied by the Orwell-esque Appeals Tribunal. But after continued pressure from the Newark Star-Ledger’s Bamboozled column, the situation ended up on the desk of a Deputy Commissioner who apparently has a brain in his head and knows how to read; the Appeals Tribunal’s decision was set aside and the man ultimately prevailed.

“I was so stunned,” the man tells Bamboozled. “He said, ‘Your claim is valid.’ He told me I don’t owe them any money,” Holt said. “He said a lot of things took place that shouldn’t have happened, and he’s putting measures in place to make sure they don’t happen again.”

Of course, if anyone had just looked the man’s documents in the first place, this wouldn’t have happened at all.

Bamboozled: After query, man needn’t repay jobless benefits [NJ.com]

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  1. PragmaticGuy says:

    Unfortunately organized religion will do anything to get out of obeying the law because “they answer to a higher authority.” I’m glad this guy won.

    • unpolloloco says:

      How does this have anything to do with organized religion? Take “Catholic diocese” out of the picture and insert “Humane society” and the story is exactly the same…

      • S-Man1234 says:

        N t’s nt dt! Nt vn cls. Lk PrgmtcG sys, th chrch wll d nthng t gt t f t’s blgtns. Ths chrch knw t ws tkng t nmplmnt nsrnc nd t t…gsp!…ld bt t.

        S tll m hw t s xctl th sme pnhd? [Moderator note: Disemvoweled for insults and name calling]

      • Mr. Bill says:

        Except the Catholic diocese did this not the Humane society. Using your logic. Take “Muslim terrorist” out of the picture and insert “Catholic Priest” and the story is exactly the same…

      • shepd says:

        This is one of the few cases where me and organized religion see eye to eye: Anything to get away from the law, as long as it does put you in jail.

        I don’t know, I just don’t see the humane society having the same view.

    • AcctbyDay says:

      I don’t think there is a problem with a charity not paying income taxes, but it makes no sense to make it exempt from other taxes (unemployment in this sense). What happens to those who become unemployed after working for a charity, SOL!?

      • arcticJKL says:

        The reasoning is that the government oversight could lead to the state leaning on the church to do things their way. For example; The state could increase taxes on churches who allow campaign signs to be posted on the lawn on Sunday morning, or increasing vehicle fees on buses only driven once a week. By removing the government oversight the potential issue disappears.

        There was an excellent case on the west coast recently where the state refused to give grant money to a college student because he was getting a divinity degree. They were correct in their actions. The concern was that the state could then start giving money to students of religion X and not to religion Y thus benefiting X.

        • who? says:

          How are any of your examples comparable to having a church pay the same payroll taxes on their *employees* as anybody else? It strikes me that your examples make a good counterargument about why we should *not* treat religious bodies as special cases.

          • arcticJKL says:

            Sorry not my position so it takes a while to relay the concept.
            I believe the argument against payroll taxes hinges on social security and unemployment insurance. There are some religious groups who find in immoral to rely on the government rather than society or the church to take care of members. They are exempt from paying into the system. Requiring a religious groups to provide and theologically explain why they are exempt would be perceived to be an undue burden.
            More information can be found here:

            http://www.snopes.com/politics/medical/exemptions.asp

        • lizabethiet says:

          I think that if the church accepts political signs on it’s lawn, it’s risking it’s tax-exempt status with the tax collector. For the same reason they can’t tell congregants to go out and vote for XYZ individual, both are considered endorsements. (Our diocese and others in the state got into trouble a few years ago, publicizing and organizing some action against an individual, including financing buses and telling everyone to vote for their opponent. Don’t think they got more than a “don’t do that again,” though.)

          Not entirely sure, but I think this is federal and not just a state reg. Anyone know for certain?

          • arcticJKL says:

            The relationship between taxes and churches is regulatory in nature and determined by the IRS.

            Historians used to use databases (in book form) of sermon titles to determine the political landscape. How did Wisconsin view slavery? Check sermon titles.

            Churches, Rotarians and any other non profit are free to discuss politics, even from the pulpit. It should not be up to bureaucrats to determine if a church leader can endorse a politician over dinner, but not it the office; in the parking lot, but only in a car.

            • cigsm says:

              Nobody is saying they can’t talk politics over dinner. What they are saying is that you can’t NOT PAY TAXES & then want to get involved in the government. If they want to use their tax free building and continue to enjoy all the benefits of not contributing to society through government taxes, then they have no business putting their opinions about the government out there.

              • arcticJKL says:

                I think the argument is that non profits, be it theaters, museums or churches provide something to society in lieu of taxes. Of course all their members pay taxes, and they do pay sales tax and other taxes.

                But why cant churches speak their mind about politics without interference from the government. The original theory is that in order to have a society without government intervention in religion, a separation of the state from the church unlike England or Norway, the government’s most powerful weapon of taxation was removed.

      • Difdi says:

        Unemployment isn’t a tax. It’s an individually-issued insurance policy. The unemployment payment is specific to who pays it, and no one can benefit from anyone else’s payment.

    • Chuft-Captain says:

      What? This has nothing to do with organized religion and the law. This was a fuckup on the state’s part, entirely, for not looking at the facts.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        And the employer for straight up lying about things multiple times. It’s also nice to know they were stealing money from this guy’s paycheck for benefits they were no longer paying into. Don’t get me wrong NJ screwed up big time, but both parties are assholes here.

  2. Walker66 says:

    But why’s there a picture of a raccoon? That should go one story down.

  3. Kaleey says:

    “He said a lot of things took place that shouldn’t have happened, and he’s putting measures in place to make sure they don’t happen again.”

    So… he’s going to make everyone take a comprehensive reading class?

    • crispyduck13 says:

      And I guess he’s going to compensate this guy for all the time and lawyer’s fees he had to waste?

  4. Pete the Geek says:

    Is one of the changes going to be replacing the membership of the Appeals Tribunal?

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      Probably not. The state probably invested a fair amount of money to indoctrinate the tribunal into always finding for the ex-employer, even if it requires huge amounts of cognitive dissonance. And to suppress their sense of fairness even when it’s devastatingly clear that the employer is lying about the circumstances of the termination.

  5. msmith6044 says:

    step one of “putting measures in place to make sure they don’t happen again”: fire the tribunal, require basic reading skills for all replacements