A state district judge has ruled in favor of seven plaintiffs who were denied unemployment benefits in 2020 based on accusations they tried to defraud the system years ago.
As a result, the claimants will collectively receive $69,509 in withheld unemployment benefits.
At the heart of the case is a state mandate that says the state Department of Workforce Solutions can withhold four weeks of benefits for each week a person is found to have committed. unemployment claim fraud.
But two provisions of that mandate are contradictory, one saying the state can only do it for one year from the date of the original determination, and another saying it can do it the next time a claimant is eligible for unemployment benefits – even if he is years down the line.
The seven complainants were determined to have findings of fraud dating back to 2013 and no more recent than 2017. They worked respectively as a tourist bus driver, a private school teacher, a hairdresser, a glass company worker, a welder, a representative marketing and customer service. agent.
Albuquerque-based attorney Alicia Clark, lead counsel in the 2020 lawsuit, filed on behalf of plaintiffs by New Mexico Legal Aid, said sometimes fraud claims “are a misunderstanding or mistake, but anyway, the law limits the time she can do this [withhold benefits].”
She said the provision allowing the department to withhold benefits indefinitely “should be removed from the regulations. This has been left unanswered for God knows how long.”
First Judicial District Judge Matthew J. Wilson’s March 22 ruling says the state unemployment agency failed to provide evidence that would require a trial or proof that the plaintiffs had exhausted all other remedies before to take legal action, among other measures.
He said the plaintiffs were entitled to the relief sought – unemployment compensation and other appropriate benefits.
Stacy Johnson, a spokeswoman for Workforce Solutions, said Tuesday the department does not comment on litigation issues.