Takeaway: You may get a phone call today from a New Jersey Department of Labor (NJDOL) agent asking about your unemployment claim. This is contrary to the process we arranged with them, but we are suggesting that you answer these calls, answer the agents’ questions, and ignore any false claims that you are not eligible. Please read on for more important information about what to expect.
We’re writing in this email only to faculty participants in work-sharing who have to apply by phone because you don’t have a New Jersey state ID. Thank you for your patience as you navigate the work-sharing program. We really appreciate your support in undertaking this process in order to advance of our shared goals.
We worked hard to improve the process for those who had to use the phone system to file for unemployment insurance. We did successfully remove the need for you to wait on hold or call repeatedly to complete your filing. We were told that anyone who completed the automated questionnaire would not have to call back, and that NJDOL staff would complete these applications, using information about work-sharing participants that Rutgers submitted to the state.
However, some of you started getting phone calls from NJDOL agents yesterday. Contrary to the process they agreed to, the department is apparently having agents call everyone on our list of work-sharing participants who had to apply by phone. This is exactly what we were told would NOT happen when we arranged for these faculty to make their application by completing the automated phone questionnaire.
We expect these calls will continue today, and we have asked University Human Resources (UHR) to contact you and let you know what to expect. We don’t believe they have, so we are suggesting that you answer these calls if you can and talk to the agents.
Because agents are working from home, the calls may come up as an unknown or blocked number. We suggest you take these calls when they come in. The agents will ask you for your Social Security number and other pieces of identifying information. If you want to confirm that you are talking to an NJDOL agent before answering, ask them to send you an email from their work address so you can be sure they are who they say they are. They should be able to do this immediately, before you continue with the call.
The agent will likely ask you for other information such as your mailing address. Have our annotated version of the filing instructions from UHR handy in case they ask for some of that information. In a number of cases we heard about yesterday, the call ended with the agent saying that the claim would proceed or that more information was coming in the mail. This is positive. Once your claim is approved, you will, in fact, receive communications in the mail (much of the further instructions in these communications is irrelevant to us, but we’ll let you know more about that later).
We’ve heard of several cases of agents making gross misstatements about our eligibility—that we aren’t eligible for unemployment because we are only furloughing for 10 percent of our workweek (the state law confirms eligibility for 10 percent furloughs) or even that someone’s income is too high to be eligible for unemployment (there is no such cap on income to qualify for unemployment insurance, only a cap on maximum weekly unemployment payments). Please ignore these false statements. And as we’ve said before, many NJDOL agents are unfamiliar with our work-sharing program and will insist that you set up weekly appointments to certify that you are unemployed. You should ignore any communication, whether from an agent, in the mail, or by email, about certifying weekly.
If you bear these points in mind—and politely reject any statements that you are ineligible or that you have to certify for unemployment weekly—answering the phone and talking to the agent should help move this very flawed process further along.
Please remember, this work-sharing program has been approved by the state, and you will receive payments covering the entire duration of the program, in spite of what a phone agent may tell you. We apologize for the confusion and anxiety this likely creates.
We know this isn’t what we told you would happen, and we’re very sorry NJDOL started making these calls without informing us. We thank you for your patience and persistence through this process, and we do promise that we will get through it. However many hassles we have to go through, we will ensure that every participant in work-sharing either receives unemployment payments or is made whole by the university.
Todd and Becky
Todd Wolfson, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rebecca Givan, Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
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