State Demands Man Pay Back $19K In Unemployment Benefits

UPDATE: Reason has prevailed and the man no longer has to pay the money back to the state!


Being out of work is bad enough, but imagine if the state not only took away what little unemployment benefits you had coming in every week but also demanded you pay back everything you’d received for the previous 18 months? That’s what happened to a man in New Jersey who is caught in the middle of a battle of ineptitude between church and state.

From Oct. 2008 until March 2010, the man had worked in a maintenance job for a service company owned by the Catholic Diocese of Camden. When he was laid off, he applied for, and received, unemployment benefits.

That is, up until a few months ago when the state told him there was a mistake and he needed to repay all $19,295 of the benefits he’d benefited from.

According to the Newark Star-Ledger’s Bamboozled column, what appears to have happened is this: When the man started his job in 2008, the company he worked for was not a non-profit, in spite of being a part of the diocese. That means it collected unemployment and disability insurance out of his paycheck.

Then that company managed to get its status changed at some point in 2009, meaning it no longer collected insurance payments.

When the benefits dried up and the repayment demand was made, the state told him it was because he had worked for a non-profit religious organization.

He finally got a phone hearing in March for his appeal.

“I produced my pay stubs that prove unemployment compensation tax was deducted from my pay,” he tells Bamboozled. “These deductions were taken out from my first check in March 2008 until the end of September 2009 – a total of 18 months.”

Even though his employer did become a non-profit during his period of employment — a status change about which he says he was never told, and which the diocese confirms was only announced in a voluntary staff meeting — he had still made unemployment insurance payments during his base year of Oct. 2008 to Sept. 2009, meaning he should have been eligible (and certainly shouldn’t have to repay anything).

Part of the problem is with that Sept. 2009 date. See, the diocese claims it changed the status for the maintenance services company in June 2009, meaning it should have stopped collecting unemployment insurance. However, the employee has proof showing it was deducted up through Sept. 2009.

Now the state and the diocese are pointing fingers at each other.

The diocese says it never received any requests from the state for information about the former employee. A rep for the diocese says the state mistakenly associated the man with a separate non-profit nursing home run by the diocese.

“The issue of the $19,000? It’s obvious the state made a mistake,” says the rep.

The state refused to comment to Bamboozled on this specific case. Meanwhile, it is continuing to demand payment of the $19,000, telling the man that it will put a lien on his house until the debt is paid.

The man has requested an appeal before the agency’s board of review, which we imagine resembles something straight out of a Terry Gilliam movie.

Bamboozled: Missteps by state, Catholic Diocese hit laid-off maintenance worker with $19k bill []


Edit Your Comment

  1. Coffee says:

    Problems with unemployment are really, really terrible. My ex-wife was laid off from a position that paid ~%94 of her salary because of budget cuts. She subsequently moved immediately thereafter (this was during the separation). The primary employer did not contest the claim, but the office where she worked ~four hour/week did because getting laid off and moving forced her to quit that job (which paid ~$40/week). She didn’t even want to file unemployment with them, but was required to by the state. They succeeded in contesting it, so she got NONE of her benefits.

    She contested, but hasn’t received a penny. The net result of working that part-time job is losing about $10,000 in total benefits. What a joke.

    • SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

      dios mio thats terrible, and probably the reason that people won’t look for temporary part time jobs because it ends up costing them in the long run than just getting unemployment until they get another full time job.

      • Coffee says:

        Pretty much…knowing what I know now, I would never recommend that someone work “just a couple hours a week” at a job unless they’re very certain that they won’t be making any significant life changes soon. It’s just another disincentive to work and play by the rules.

        • RandomHookup says:

          Each state handles part-time employment while unemployed differently. It’s a bear to give advice because the target keeps moving so much.

          • Coffee says:

            You’re right…I was overgeneralizing…that said, I would look into your state’s laws before electing to do a little extra work on the side. And to be clear, my anecdote wasn’t about seeking part-time employment while receiving unemployment…it was about how being forced to quit a very minor part-time job after getting laid off from a primary position produced a net result of zero benefits.

    • kobresia says:

      That’s pretty messed-up, but it was probably wrong that she mentioned that part-time job. Of course they’re going to contest the claim, because being part-time and exceedingly low-paying, they probably weren’t even obligated to pay UI premiums on her behalf. They would be screwed-over royally if the claim did go through, and it really comes out of the employer’s hide if a UI claim does get registered by a former employee.

      This is why almost all employers will do anything possible to not dismiss employees in a way that leaves them eligible for UI benefits. I even had one former employer offer me several weeks’ pay & other severance benefits if I would agree to resign rather than making them let me go, just so they wouldn’t be screwed-over worse by me collecting UI benefits. It was in no way them being generous, they were notorious tightwads that wouldn’t even pay for necessary things if they could postpone or ignore a situation that required any outlay of money. They were just concerned about having the UI premiums go up or something.

      • Coffee says:

        Right…I’m not saying that the part-time employer was in the wrong – I’m saying that it’s a fucked up system that *requires* someone filing to mention a very minor employer like that…they only paid ~6% of her salary, but because they were grouped with the primary employer, which didn’t contest, and she was legally required to include them, everyone’s hands were tied.

        • FacebookAppMaker says:

          In Canada you make claims for all employers, and they approve/deny them on an employer basis. So If she was in Canada, she would be denied the part time, but would still receive EI for the full time job.

          • Coffee says:

            Yes, and this makes perfect sense. It just seems designed to prevent people from receiving benefits.

      • sponica says:

        My part time employer for my seasonal job was listed as an “interested party” when I transferred from Tier I EUC to Tier II EUC, even though they had NOTHING to do with the original claim as I did not start working with them until 8 months after my original UI claim was filed.

        I found it odd…it’s not like the company could contest the Tier II EUC, as 100% of the benefits were going to be paid by the feds.

  2. Worstdaysinceyesterday says:

    Ummm last time I checked the Catholic Church had pooploads of money. How about doing the Christian and charitable thing and taking care of your (former) employee by paying the money owed? If you want to claim to be in the business of helping people, here is your chance to do so…

    still waiting….

    still waiting…

    • sagodjur says:

      Nah, the Catholic Church recently chastised a bunch of American nuns for, among other things, focusing too much on the issue of poverty. If Jesus wanted people to be rich, he would have compelled them to join the clergy.

    • oldwiz65 says:

      The Catholic Church is too busy spending money bribing politicians to get rid of insurance coverage for birth control pills and for attempts at laws to block abortions. They are also busy engaging in election politics, castigating one candidate in favor of another, in blatant violation of the rules for non-profits. If they didn’t also give bribes in the right places they would probably lose their non-profits status as well. The church doesn’t really care that much about people’s lives; their only focus is on telling people what not to do.

    • proliance says:

      When was the last time you checked? And can your provide your source? I thought not.

      Let me help:

      • Worstdaysinceyesterday says:

        Got your communion dress in a bunch did I?

        Well let me clarify my statement as far as what I know about catholic finances…Most local catholic churches are their own financial entities, owned in trust by a diocese. This means that the land and property will go to the diocese should the church shut down. In effect, the diocese own the land, building and everything in it. I would call those liquid assets, as a matter of fact VERY liquid asses -easily turned into cash. Thus wealth (pooploads of money) is accumulated over 2,000 years worth of property investments.

        I also factor in the cultural, historical, and architectural significant properties, works of art and ‘treasures’ as added value – priceless in some instances. But certainly sell-able and easily counting towards wealth (again more pooploads of money).

        In addition, I understand that it is the expectation of the Vatican to report operating at a cash loss. This ‘proves’ their commitment to charitable acts and acting as a non-profit organization. Now I do not have the time nor the inclination to dissect the financial statements that are issued periodically.

        However, I accept those statements with the same amount of credibility I would offer to any multi-billion dollar company’s annual report. (Which is about ‘meh’ level.) At the same time, I expect a church, the diocese and its leaders to help those in need.

        A Christian organization, with such wealth backing it, operating at a loss is not a sacrifice to me. It is expected. And that is my point, the church that employed him can call upon their reserves or the diocese to help this man out.

        And your source is crap

  3. sagodjur says:

    This is clearly the fault of the unemployed man. If he had just been born into a rich family with trust funds and connections, this wouldn’t have happened. He also shouldn’t have taken out a mortgage on a house when he should have known he was going to be unemployed eventually and he should have paid off his credit card debt every month like I do with my plentiful paycheck, good education, and self-righteousness.


    • SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

      +1 nice

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      it’s too bad you can’t actually pay debts with self righteousness. so many people would be debt free immediately.

  4. miss_j_bean says:

    He paid his unemployment insurance, the rest of the details are unrelated to his specific case. Why is the state even treating this as an issue? There’s just trying to get out of paying someone who paid into the system and now needs the program he paid for. This is ridiculous, shame on them.

    • miss_j_bean says:

      oops spelling errors. the sentiment remains.

    • crispyduck13 says:


      The truly disgusting thing is that, according to the article, they are still pursuing the $19k from this guy, even though they are aware of the details.

      • Lyn Torden says:

        That’s because the state needs to keep stealing money from people under the guise of unemployment.

    • Coffee says:

      This is totally normal as far as trying to get unemployment is concerned. It’s just like medical insurance – you can pay into it, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t fight tooth and nail to keep you from receiving your benefits.

  5. framitz says:

    END the non-profit nonsense, end it now.
    Churches and every other entity need to pay their share of taxes.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      Just to clarify: if he’d been working for a non-profit the whole time, and never had any unemployment insurance taken from his paycheck, would he have been unable to collect unemployment when they canned him?

      • huadpe says:

        Correct. Just like if a self-employed person’s business dries up or they end up without income.

    • CommonSense(‡≤†_‡≤†) says:

      There is not one chruch in existance that should be able to qualify for non-profile.
      They all are for-profit corporations.
      To be acknolwedged as a member of a specific catholic church you need to pledge a portion of your salary to them. They will require you to put so much a week in an envelope and drop it in the basket.
      The mormon’s force everyone to donate 10%.
      I know my muslim friends are forced to give so much to their mosque, but I am not sure how much. Probably like 10%.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        Catholics don’t require tithing. It’s completely voluntary. I grew up Catholic and never ever attended any church where it was required. Encouraged, yes, but not required.

        • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

          Agreed. I’ve been a member of a half dozen or so Catholic churches over the years (I’ve moved around a bit). Nobody ever asked my salary, nor was I forced to pledge a portion of it. Giving was encouraged, but it definitely wasn’t mandatory.

  6. shepd says:

    End forced fees and taxes now! If employment insurance were optional and something you could buy anywhere, there’s no way it could be any worse than this. Plus, at least you’d have a chance at a fair and equitable trial.

    • Difdi says:

      I wish it were optional. I used to have a part time job where they deducted UI from every paycheck, but the nature of the job and the hours I worked were such that I didn’t qualify for even the most minor unemployment benefits.

      So I lost money out of every paycheck for services I couldn’t possibly receive. But it was illegal for me to opt out.

  7. Chuck U Farley says:

    The state of California forced me to pay back 100% of the money i was entitled to and earned because I filed unemployment a month early based on confusion over an “income continuation” payment from employer that laid me off. Basically hush money to not badmouth them.
    My mistake…
    however instead of forcing me to pay back the premature month the state deemed my whole claim to be invalid (it wasn’t, it was just 1 month premature) and shut off payments I was still eligible for.

    so the reality is that I got paid an extra month on a claim that was nearing 16 months. instead of withholding checks until the premature payment was paid they just shut me off and then sent a bill. In front of their judge they said I was lucky to even have the penalty charges waived for defrauding the government. They make unemployment intentionally low to discourage living off of but forget about the mounting debts that come with unemployment. Then they insult you and call you a criminal cause you made a mistake that could be remedied with common sense.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Yep, government efficiency is action, and these are the same people that many want running healthcare in the US.

      Be afraid, be very afraid!

      • mrstu says:

        Yeah, it’s sure a good thing we never hear any stories at all about private sector health insurance incompetence/greed, right?

  8. KitanaOR says:

    I have a story like this that is incompetence on the insurance’s part. My husband was collecting unemployment and after 8 months, had hit a rut. So I suggested we go to NYC for fun (very cheap trip; three nights, one of those nights w/o a place to stay, the other two at a hostel). Before leaving, he called up unemployment and asked how he should file to account for the three days we would be out of state. They said to file, but say that the 3 days we were gone, to indicate he could not work.

    He did that. A month later, he got a job.

    They later said he wasn’t supposed to file for that week at all, so they asked for the money he got in that month. He appealed, but the state of WA would not admit it’s mistake.

    To add insult to injury, they charged interest. They only sent us one bill to say how much he owed. Never got another one and he kept track of how much he paid them and paid it all off. Years later, we found out that they had charged interest (less than $10). We didn’t know about it, and didn’t pay it. They issued a warrant for his arrest. Luckily, it was vacated before we even found out.

  9. kobresia says:

    This is an odd situation, since it would seem he was not current on paying the UI premiums (or having them paid on his behalf), and was actually 6 months behind when he lost the job due to the change in his employer’s profit-motive status.

    What is the situation with UI benefits as far as nonprofit organizations go? Are their employees just not eligible, does the state just pay them out in the interest of the public good despite not collecting the premiums, or are employees just completely on their own if they lose the job?

    Regardless, it seems sketchy that they could approve the benefits and then demand to have them all paid back unless there was some sort of misrepresentation or fraud on the recipient’s end. Even if there was a mix-up and he received benefits despite not being eligible & nobody caught it, as long as he requested the benefits in good faith without knowingly misrepresenting anything, the state should let it go. It’s lame to go after someone who is already in a tough spot over a technicality.

    • sponica says:

      i know in the hinterlands of NH, non-profits are no different than anyone else…seeing as I worked for one and got UI

      i’m not 100% sure about RELIGIOUS non-profits though…

  10. Extended-Warranty says:

    How come I don’t know anyone who has lived off of unemployment anytime recently for more than 2 months?

    • Coffee says:

      I have no idea what you just wrote means.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      because they probably ran out of unemployment insurance coverage over a year ago?

    • Free Legal Advice! says:

      Is this a trick question? What’s the punch-line?

    • flipflopju says:

      Because you don’t have any friends?

    • StopGougingMeThere! says:

      Hi, I’m Mark and I’ve been unemployed for 18 months. Nice to meet you. I used to make $75k a year before being let go after a change in management and after selling my home and becoming a renter 3 states away I am willing to take a $10-12/hour job even though I had 18 years of continuous employment with the same company (10 in management) and possess an Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree. I can’t even score an entry level position because it’s apparent they think I’d quit for greener pastures if given the chance (which admittedly I probably would). I’m now down to the last 23 weeks (thanks to Illinois still having a worse unemployment rate than where I live now I get the final 20 weeks of EB) and I’m scared to death what will happen if I don’t have a job when my UI is up. Household of 5, my wife earns $13/hr, and my only debt other than rent and utilities is a small $250 car payment because our 9 year old minivan finally kicked the bucket this past winter (my 2nd car is a 13 year old Jeep). Please tell me what I’m doing wrong because being unemployed is the most terrible thing I’ve ever had to deal with since losing my Father. Please stop blaming the unemployed, folks. Some of us can’t help it.

  11. CommonSense(ಠ_ಠ) says:

    How can they legally put a lean on the guys house?
    The state is 100% wrong, just him mailing in the records showing he paid unemployment insurance should have taken him out of the situation.
    This now seems to be a situation between the employer and the state only.

  12. Jack T Ripper says:

    Bah… Go ahead and put a lien on my house if you want to. If I had been out of work for 18 months and making only 1000 per month in unemployment, then I’m probably fixing to lose my house anyway. See if I care if you put a lien on it. Get in line if you want to squeeze blood from that turnip.

    • joako says:

      Actually it could be to your favor… could delay the eviction or the bank might be forced to pay off the lien!

  13. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Hands down, the man should get unemployment benefits. Them, either A) the state must comply since UI benefits were ducted and paid to the state, or B) the former employer goofed, and would have to pay the state back and pay for the man’s UI benefits out of pocket. Either way, the former employee is not at fault.

  14. synimatik says:

    Information Transit got the wrong man. I got the *right* man. The wrong one was delivered to me as the right man, I accepted him on good faith as the right man. Was I wrong?

  15. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    It seems like employers that don’t pay into the UC system really need to notify employees of this fact and have them sign off on it.

  16. RiverStyX says:

    As much as I really dislike organized religion, it pains me to say that I’m taking their side this time over unemployment. This has never happened before and will never happen again, but the crooks who work for the unemployment dept are FAR worse then any church can be. Even Jim Jones himself would stand higher in ethical reputation then those crooks..908 people dead versus the untold number of millions that unemployment has screwed over? Yeah, no contest.

    I’m still very bitter that unemployment screwed me out of benefits when I reported that my boss was classifying me illegally as a 1099 and not paying taxes. He retaliated, fired me, and I applied for benefits. They took his side over mine, and I ended up homeless. Will never forget the company name..Nixsys Inc of Santa Ana, California.

    • nickmoss says:

      If you were being paid on a 1099, the company would not have been paying into the state’s insurance fund. Therefore, you could not collect.

      It’s not right, but it’s not the fault of the state.

  17. nickmoss says:

    I have never seen a paycheck where unemployment insurance was shown as a deduction. Is this a NJ thing?

  18. Dagny Taggart says:

    Can’t wait for these folks to be in charge of my healthcare.

    • clydesplace says:

      If you’re talking about the new health care law, they are not going to be in charge of your health care. Typical misinformation It will still be your Corporate Owned Insurance Company that decides whether you live or die.

  19. Big Dave says:

    Used to be a Catholic, but escaped. It’s true you are not forced to tithe to the church. But, if you don’t, you will find there is no room in their school for your child, even though you will be charged an exorbitant tuition – and books – and uniforms – and special collections for this and that. Tithing is voluntary … yessir …. just like pickin’ cotton on the old plantations. Yessir!

  20. MylesMDT says:

    Pretty obvious solution. The employee’s paycheck was continuously deducted for unemployment insurance by his employer. They may have changed their non-profit status, but never told the employee, or stopped deducting his paycheck. The employee acted in good faith, the employer did not. They owe the state for the benefits paid out. The church can try and send that invoice to God, but that church needs to pay up now.

  21. Levk says:

    Mmm… Looks like this guy will end up suing the church being that they took it from him still and that he has proof of that. So in end it is the church fault so I would sue them since it is their fault and all. But that is me and I am very nice person

  22. gmgfarrand says:

    That stinks!
    I had an employer (best buy) contest my benefits AFTER I had received them, they had a lawyer, I didn’t.
    I lost, BUT…
    I contacted the state and asked if there was a minimum payment I had to send in, the said “nope”, so I informed them that I would send a check once a month for $.01 until hell froze over.
    They dismissed the $1200 they felt that I owed them.

  23. tbail25 says:

    My state pulled something even shittier. I received unemployment benefits from Nov 2009 to March 2010. When they first determined how much I’d be getting, they calculated it using my former employer, and some company I never worked for. I contested that, and they came back and told me that I must not know who I worked for because they were using my SS # and somehow managed to get this mystery company. It was some bar 100 miles away from my house. I found a job in March 2010, and stopped earning benefits. It wasn’t until September of 2011 that they sent me a notification telling me they overpaid me by $1300, and expected me to pay it back. I tried contesting it based upon the fact that they flat out told me that *I* didn’t know my employers and that I did indeed tell them they were wrong but no one would listen to me. It failed, and needless to say, I haven’t paid them a damn dime yet because they were in the wrong, and it took them a year and a half to realize their mistake, so I’m in no hurry either.

  24. PsiCop says:

    Re: “See, the diocese claims …”

    Great pun there. How long have you been waiting to use it?


  25. soj4life says:

    Wait, how is the state able to put a lien on this guy’s house? It isn’t property taxes he owes. He did not get a loan from the state that used his house as collateral. This really doesn’t surprise me with the unemployment office in NJ, half of their site doesn’t work on sundays when some people need to file claims.