LEGISLATIVE ACTION ALERT: Proposed UIA Bill Would End Robo-Fraud Attacks on Unemployment Claimants

Blanchard Media SpotlightThe Michigan State House Oversight and Ethics Committee has passed HB 4982 H-6 that would end UIA robo-fraud accusations and other abuses of the Michigan State Unemployment Agency.  If you, a family member, or your clients (for the lawyers out there) have been caught up in robo-fraud accusations and garnishments since 2012, you should read on.

Your help is essential to put an end to the Unemployment Insurance Agency’s abusive tactics of imposing fines and wage and tax garnishments against former unemployment claimants.   Michigan’s elected representatives need to hear your voice.  On a bi-partisan vote, the Michigan House Oversight and Ethics Committee recently passed House Bill 4982 H-6, a new bill to reform the states unemployment benefits laws.  It could be voted on by the full House of Representatives and may become law – if representatives take action right now.

What would the new bill do? [Read more…]

Major Breakthrough in the Fight Against Unemployment “Robo-Fraud” Determinations as State Announces Plans to Review Old Determinations.

Since at least 2013, the Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance System has had its computers set on data-mining old claims data, sometimes going back up to six years, to find data discrepancies and automatically issue “Robo-Fraud” determinations against unemployment claimants.

Now, just more than a year after we filed the federal court lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s unemployment fraud accusations, the UIA is showing the first signs of a break under mounting pressure from multiple quartersHouse Testimony.  In April, the federal judge hearing the constitutional challenge issued an Order denying the State’s motion to dismiss and clearing the way for the case to move forward. Meanwhile in Lansing, Reforms to the State System are being contemplated in the Michigan Legislature, where attorney David Blanchard testified last week on the impact of the system for Michigan UIA claimants and on the need to strengthen protections.

Last week saw another major development [Read more…]

New From SCOTUS: First Amendment Protects Government Employees From Retaliation, Even if the Employer is Wrong About the Speech

SCOTUS: Government Employees are Protected from Retaliation

SCOTUS: Government Employees are Protected from Retaliation

In a 6-2 decision that broadens First Amendment protections for public employees, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the lower court erred when it dismissed a lawsuit brought by a New Jersey police officer who was demoted after fellow officers saw him with a campaign sign for the challenger to the incumbent police chief.

As it turned out, the plaintiff in Heffernan v. City of Patterson was not actually supporting the challenger – he was picking up the sign for his bedridden mother. The defendants were not aware of this fact. They tried to use their ignorance to their advantage, arguing that the City should not be liable for retaliation since supervisors were actually wrong about Mr. Heffernan engaging in protected speech.

Writing for the Court, Justice Breyer rejected the defendants’ argument: [Read more…]

Fighting for Independent Contractors

Clocking ovvertime

Clocking overtime for independent contractors.

Blanchard & Walker lawyers have been fighting for over a decade to secure the rights of cable technicians and other laborers who have been deprived of overtime pay by the use of “independent contractor” labels.  Still, we are amazed by the depth of the problem and astonished to hear how extreme and widespread the abuse of “independent contractor” classifications has become.   Writing for Slate, author Virginia Sole-Smith has done an excellent job to document the scope and extent of predatory misclassification of employees.  Thank you to Virginia for explaining the human toll behind these practices.


With one swift re-classification, the otherwise “employers” are able to reduce costs related to unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation, and even avoid obligations to pay overtime. Or so some would assume. In fact, the protections of the FLSA are not dependent on the company’s discretion in picking job titles. Persons designated as “independent contractors” and other workers wrongly deprived of overtime pay have a legal right to recover the wages stolen through illegal misclassifications by their employers. [Read more…]

Tracking Unemployment Robo-Fraud

Metro Times Cover Blanchard & Walker continues the march forward for unemployment claimants who find themselves subject to tax and wage garnishments for baseless fraud determinations.

A new order from Federal Court Judge Robert H. Cleland Zynda ORD 2016-03-29 (Order on MTD ) clears the way for the lawsuit to move forward challenging unemployment fraud accusations, as reported in a recent Metro Times Article. The new ruling in the UIA lawsuit rejects State of Michigan arguments seeking dismissal on immunity and standing grounds. Reforms to the Michigan unemployment system have been under review in the state legislature since 2015, but the legislature has yet to act.  But the proposed reforms still fall short of remedies needed. [Read more…]

UIA Fraud accusations – B & W Comments to Michigan State Legislature

Feb. 20, 2016.  After months of kicking a draft around – and nearly a year after defects in the Michigan UIA system triggered a federal lawsuit and put State administration on notice – the Michigan Legislature finally took up the issue of Unemployment Agency fraud accusations run wild.  Thursday (2/18) the State House Ethics and Oversight Committee held a last minute hearing to take testimony from the Unemployment Agency and from those who have been affected by the baseless fraud accusations in recent years.  Blanchard & Walker immediately went to work notifying the public and potential victims of robo-fraud accusations that the Michigan Legislature needs to hear from them:

“Over the years, we’ve heard from numerous victims of these practices who’ve had to fight against bogus fraud findings and unwarranted financial penalties from the UIA. Our state legislators need to hear from citizens who have been impacted.” [Read more…]

Sixth Circuit Trend Shows Preference For Jury – and not Judge – to Decide FLSA Overtime Claims

Blanchard sixth circuit

By: David Blanchard, Blanchard & Walker PLLC, Ann Arbor, MI

The Sixth Circuit federal appeals court has spoken, and “independent contractors” or other workers who may be deprived of overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) should be pleased to hear the news. A recent trend of decisions in the federal appeals court for the Sixth Circuit (covering Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee) affirms a clear right to jury trial, and against judicial rulings to dismiss, to decide overtime compensation claims. Under the FLSA, non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay at “time and a half” for all hours worked in a week.[i] The FLSA overtime law applies regardless of contract provisions or other agreements the employer has tried to impose (including “independent contractor” labels the employer might insist upon as a condition of employment). Recent published cases in the Sixth Circuit lend encouragement for workers seeking overtime pay and a note of caution for trial judges who may be inclined to issue summary dismissals. [Read more…]

ADA Accommodations: Justice Settlement Means Revised University of Michigan Practices, Guidelines

Blanchard ADAImagine a chronic illness or other disability makes it you unable to continue to do the job you held for years.  There’s a job opening down the hall for a job you could do, but the HR department says you have to re-apply and, even if qualified, to compete in the same pool without outside applicants.  Thats the jist of the Justice Department’s complaint against the University of Michigan.  At the same time the complaint was filed on July 22, 2015, the DOJ announced a settlement agreement with the University that would do away with its long standing policy of refusing transfers to open positions as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act unless the employee is the best qualified. [Read more…]

FLSA Employees vs. Independent Contractors under DOL Administrative Interpretation AI 2015-1

Blanchard FLSAThe Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has been the law of the land since it was first ushered through congress by President Franklin Roosevelt almost eighty years ago.  The FLSA promised a fair day’s pay for a day’s work, and required overtime pay at time and a half for working more than forty hours a week.  Yet for the last two decades, federal courts have struggled with the scope of the FLSA protections as the “outsourced” labor model has become more prevalent in the domestic economy.  In the fractured labor market -as it has been called – companies have increasingly used workers defined as “independent contractors” to perform their core business functions.   With one swift re-classification, the otherwise “employers” are able to reduce and avoid costs related to unemployment insurance, workers compensation, and even avoid obligations to pay overtime… or so some would assume. The protections of the FLSA are not dependent on the company’s discretion.   So-called ‘independent contractors’ and other workers deprived of overtime pay have a legal right to recover the wages stolen through illegal misclassifications by their employers. [Read more…]

Media Spotlight on Allegedly Baseless Fraud Accusations Against Michigan’s Unemployed

Blanchard Media SpotlightThe federal lawsuit challenging the State of Michigan’s administration will certainly take months or years to wind through the courts.  The State has not yet responded and no ruling has yet to be made on the merits. Regardless, it is so important that Michigan’s unemployed know that people are working for their due process rights in the UIA system; and that baseless, robotic, accusations of fraud are not necessarily the result of anything they have done wrong. [Read more…]