Filing Proper Claims - Section 901 - Maryland Unemployment Decisions Digest - Appeals
The provisions dealing with filing proper claims are located in Section 8-901 of the Labor and Employment Article of the Maryland Annotated Code.
A claimant who is otherwise qualified for unemployment insurance benefits must also meet the continuing eligibility requirements of the law. This includes the requirement that the claimant must file proper claims for benefits for each and every week that benefits are claimed. The requirements for filing proper claims are found in the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 09.32.02.03 and .04. Proper claims must be submitted on the Sunday immediately following the close of the week or weeks for which benefits are claimed.
In order to be considered timely filed, the claim must be received by the agency no later than 14 days after the last day of the week for which benefits are claimed. Claims filed later than this will be considered timely only if the delay was caused by the agency's error.
Failure to file a timely claim can shut down the claim and result in a penalty. The claimant can be disqualified from receiving benefits during all weeks for which claims were improperly filed. In order to reactivate the claim after this occurs, the claimant must reopen the claim. A claimant may appeal the denial of benefits for failure to file proper claims, however, the claimant must continue to file claims during the pendency of the appeal in order to receive benefits for any back weeks of benefits if the claimant wins the appeal.
Filing Proper Claims - Section 901
I. In General
A. Claim Weeks Prior to Registration for Work
The claimant reported to the local office for the first time on September 7, and attempted to file claims for the weeks ending August 13, August 20, and August 27, 1983. The Board denied benefits for the three weeks in question. Under Section 8-901, claims for benefits must be filed in accordance with the Secretary's regulations. These regulations, at COMAR 09.32.02.03C(1), state that a claim series does not begin until the first day of the calendar week in which an unemployed individual reports and registers for work. Therefore, the claimant cannot file backdated claims. Golabieski, 211-BR-84.
The Board of Appeals allowed backdated claims where a claimant was misinformed by the employer (which had entered into an agreement with the Agency regarding the dispersing information about unemployment insurance benefits to affected employees). By virtue of the agreement between employer and agency, the employer was vicariously placed in the position of the Agency. In this case, the employer failed to send a separation notice to the state regarding the claimant and failed to initially file a claim on behalf of the claimant as per the agreement between the employer and agency. This action had been taken by the employer on behalf of the claimant's similarly situated coworkers. Rinker, 842-BH-99.
Some back-dated claims may be permitted where the employer's actions (misinformation in an employment contract on ineligibility to collect benefits) resulted in the claimant believing that she was not eligible. The Board stated that an employer has an obligation to be certain that information that it was including in employment contracts concerning unemployment benefits was accurate. This concept is "balanced" by the obligation upon the claimant to contact the Agency or other legal authority to ascertain his or her rights. Therefore, the Board allowed the claimant to file claims in 1998 from 1996, but did not permit the backdating of claims for 1994 and 1995. Charlyce M. Johnson v. Anne Arundel Co. Economic Opport. Comm Inc., 575-BH-00.
B. Claims Filed by Representative
The claimant was ill and unable to keep her appointment at the local office on September 18, 1991. The claimant's father came to the local office that day for her. The claimant's father was not allowed to keep the claimant's appointment or file the claimant's claim form for the weeks ending September 7 and September 14, 1991. If he had been allowed to file the claim form, it would have been filed in a timely manner. COMAR 09.32.02.09A allows for the filing of claims through a representative. The claimant filed proper claims for benefits under Section 8-901. Williams, 278-BR-92.
C. Presumption of Timely Delivery to Agency
A claimant mailed his claim in a timely fashion, but it was returned because of an error of the U.S. Postal Service. Unemployment insurance regulations are based upon a presumption of the correct handling of the mail in transit. Where this has not occurred, the claimant cannot be penalized because of the mistake of another government agency. Guido, 2073-BR-92.
The claimant misplaced his claim form, but found it within the grace period and offered to personally deliver it to the agency in order to insure its timely receipt. The agency insisted that he mail the form. The claimant mailed the form three days before the expiration of the grace period. The form is presumed to have been delivered on time, the agency's statement to the contrary notwithstanding. Subsequent claims constituted "continued claims" and were appropriately and timely filed by mail. Robinson, 1682-BR-93.
D. Effect of Written Instructions
The claimant received written instructions at the time of filing his original claim and was scheduled to report back approximately ten days later. Due to a medical problem, the claimant was unable to keep the original appointment, and made no effort to contact the agency for over one month thereafter, even though he had received no claim forms. The claimant was aware of the necessity of filing claim forms each week because he had received written instructions. Since the claimant filed no claim forms, he failed to meet the requirements of Section 8-901. Boone, 511-BH-83.
Backdated claims will not be accepted where a claimant fails to file weekly claims after receiving a written instruction pamphlet which he simply failed to read thoroughly. The claimant had the ability to understand the written instructions. Spigel, 580-BH-85.
E. Grace Period for Filing Claims
The claim form for the weeks ending February 4 and 11, 1989 was received by the agency on February 17, 1989. Since the claim was received within 14 days of the week two ending date, the claimant filed a proper claim for benefits for the weeks in question. Schultz, 426-BR-89.
Under COMAR 09.32.02.04B(4), a continued claim "shall be filed and received within 14 days of the week for which benefits are claimed in order to be timely..." The claimant filed a claim form for the weeks ending March 2 and March 9, 1991. The last date for it to be timely received was March 23, 1991, however, March 23, 1991 was a Saturday. The agency offices are closed on Saturdays (as well as Sundays) and do not receive mail deliveries. Therefore, it was impossible for the claimant's claim form to have been received on the 14th day, March 23, 1991. Any form normally deliverable on March 23 could not have been received until March 25, 1991 which is the day the claimant's form was received. Under Article 94, Section 2 of the Annotated Code of Maryland, when the last day of a period of time prescribed by any statute falls on a Sunday or legal holiday, the period of time runs until the end of the next day, which is neither a Sunday nor a holiday. The Saturday in this case is analogous to a legal holiday or Sunday; therefore, the claimant filed proper claims for benefits for the weeks ending March 2 and March 9, 1991. Powell, 827-BR-91.
The 16-day grace period for the filing of claims is extended to 17 days, where the 16th day was a federal and state holiday. Burton, 1760-BR-94.
Absent a showing either that the employer deliberately misled the claimant, or that the employer, through an arrangement with the Agency (DLLR), was acting in place of the agency advising employees with regard to filing for unemployment insurance, the Board found that an otherwise late-filing claimant will not have good cause to overcome the requirement to file timely and proper claims. Nutter v. Anne Arundel Co. Economic Opportunity Commission, Inc., 915-BR-99.
F. Timely Attempts to Correct Errors
1. Timely Communication to Agency
When a claimant visits a local office in an attempt to file a claim within the 14-day grace period, but is not given a claim form, the claimant cannot be disqualified for not filing that claim timely. Peralta, 708-BR-91.
A claimant put her claim forms for the first two weeks in a stamped envelope and then lost them. She believed that she had mailed them. She visited the local office twice during the 14-day grace period to inquire about the fact that she had not received her check. The claimant was not given new claim forms to file. The reason for having a 14-day grace period is to allow for errors, not only of the local office and the postal service, but also of the claimants. The claimant made a timely visit to correct her error, even though she did not, at the time, realize that she had made the error. She should not be disqualified for filing that claim untimely. Bailey, 561-BR-92.
The claimant was advised to visit the unemployment office in person if she had a problem with her claim forms. The claimant did visit her local office in person. On neither of the two occasions was she advised to do anything but wait. There was no evidence that she was advised that the forms which she kept receiving in the mail were invalid. The claimant cannot be disqualified for failure to file claim forms in a timely manner. Fields, 659-BR-93.
Since the claimant visited his local office on January 11, 1993, he should have been informed at that time of the necessity of reopening his claim. He cannot, therefore, be disqualified for the weeks ending January 16 and January 23, 1993 for a failure to file claims. Van Prooien, 1113-BR-93.
2. Failure to Follow Agency Instructions
For the weeks ending January 19, January 26, February 2 and February 9, 1991, the claimant failed to visit her local office to obtain claim forms when the forms did not come in the mail. She was advised of the necessity of doing so, but chose not to do so, partly because of the requirement of a one hour wait in line. Visiting the local office in this situation is a requirement under COMAR 09.32.02.04B(1). The claimant failed to file timely claims for benefits for the weeks ending January 19, January 26, February 2 and February 9, 1991. Davis, 707-BR-91.
G. Removal from Claim Status
The claimant filed his first claim form for the week ending April 9, 1988 late. Consequently, his claim was closed and no further claim forms were mailed to him. The claimant was considered to be out of claim status until he reopened his claim. However, the claimant had not been advised that filing late for one week would result in the claim being closed. As a result of this late filing, the claimant was denied benefits for the weeks ending April 16, April 23 and April 30, 1988. The claimant failed to file a proper claim for the week ending April 9, 1988; however, the claimant should not be denied benefits for four weeks when in fact, his claims were only late for one week. Butler, 841-BH-88.
The claimant filed a claim for the weeks ending January 6 and January 13, 1990. On this claim form, the claimant indicated that he had worked and earned more than his weekly benefit amount for the week ending January 6, 1990. For the week ending January 13, 1990, the claimant indicated that he had no earnings and claimed benefits for that week. The next biweekly form, for the weeks ending January 20 and January 27, 1990, was not mailed to the claimant. When he did not receive it, he visited the local office on January 29, 1990 and filed the forms in person. The claimant was disqualified because when he indicated on the January 6 claim form that he earned more than his weekly benefit amount, the computer closed his claim. His claim for January 13 was not paid and the agency stopped mailing him claim forms. However, there is no statutory requirement that claims be closed in this situation. The claimant filed timely claims for benefits under Section 8-901. Simmons, 652-BH-90.
The claimant filed a timely claim for the weeks ending March 10 and March 17, 1990. She had not filed a claim for the prior two-week period because she was not seeking work for those two weeks. When she did not receive a claim form for the weeks ending March 10 and March 17, 1990, she used a claim form that she had that was marked "void" and wrote in the dates. She then mailed in the form to the agency. The agency's computer would not accept the form because the claimant's claim was closed when she failed to return the earlier claim form. The Board has held that the agency cannot close a claim without reasonable justification and the agency cannot deem a claim untimely because the data processing system is programmed to close cases in such a situation. The claimant's not filing one claim form does not justify the closing down of her claim and the claimant therefore, filed a proper claim. Goldstein, 723-BR-90.
II. Mitigating Factors
A. Agency Error: Waiver of Section 8-901 Requirements
The agency's repeated statements to the claimant that he should "wait" before he filed, coupled with his repeated inquiries which showed that he made every reasonable attempt to file, resulted in a waiver of the usual filing requirements. Saeed, 835-BR-86.
The claimant was laid off on July 10, 1987. The claimant's job was eliminated and he was awarded three months of severance pay. The agency informed the claimant that there was no point in immediately filing for benefits because he would not be eligible until he had exhausted his severance pay. Subsequently, he learned that he would not be disqualified because his job had been eliminated and the statute provides that severance pay will not be deducted from benefits when a claimant's job has been abolished. The claimant requested that his claims be backdated until July, 1987 based on the misinformation given to him on two occasions by the agency. If a claimant is misled by the agency into not filing a claim, the regulations promulgated pursuant to Section 8-901 should be waived by the agency and not be held against the claimant if he follows agency advice. Since no reasonable person would have filed a claim under these circumstances, the claimant is not disqualified under Section 8-901. Gordon, 222-BH-88.
The claimant opened his claim on January 10, 1990. He was told that his claim form would come in the mail in a few days. When it did not come, he began repeatedly calling the local office. He was repeatedly told that the form would come in a few days, however, it still did not come. The claimant also visited the local office two or three times during this period in an attempt to straighten out his claim. It was during this time that he learned that he had been disqualified for the four previous weeks for failing to file claim forms. The claimant made every reasonable attempt to file claim forms for the weeks in question and was deterred only by agency error; therefore, his claims should be allowed. Williams, 469-BR-90.
Since the hearing examiner found that the claim for the week ending April 20, 1991 was returned by the claimant in a timely manner, the claimant's failure to file the subsequent weeks' claims within 14 days was due to the agency's error in not sending the claim forms, within the meaning of COMAR 09.32.02.04B(4)(a). Under this regulation, the subsequent claims are timely filed. The claimant is entitled to rely on specific information given to him personally by unemployment insurance personnel where it modifies general language in a pamphlet, at least where this information does not address any substantive issue of eligibility. The claimant filed proper claims for benefits under Section 8-901. Voxakis, 1030-BR-91.
When the claim form for the weeks ending July 20 and 27 did not come in the mail, the claimant called the local office to ask about this and was specifically told to wait. The claimant then repeatedly contacted both her local office and the central office in Baltimore about her claim over a period of weeks but was not told to come in until August 13. At one point, she was given conflicting information from the local office as to whether the form had been received. Although the claimant did not file timely claims, she was making repeated contacts to the agency and she was instructed to be patient and wait. The claimant should not be penalized for following the instructions she was given. Wall, 372-BR-92.
B. Specific Agency Directions
The agency gave the claimant specific instructions for filing his claim and the claimant followed these instructions exactly. Whenever a finding of fact is made that the agency modified a reporting requirement and that the claimant complied with that modified requirement, no disqualification is appropriate. The claimant filed claims in accordance with agency instructions and no disqualification based on Section 8-901 was imposed. Chew, 879-BR-87.
A claimant followed the specific directions on his claim form. Since the claimant followed the specific directions, he cannot be disqualified, because specific directions on his particular case given to a claimant override any contrary general instructions in the pamphlet. Weeks, 117-BR-92.
C. Employer's Failure to Provide Documents
A claimant cannot be held responsible for the employer's failure to provide a required document. Nagy, 1470-BR-92.