LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- A retired supervisor at Nevada’s unemployment agency is speaking out against their former employer, explaining why they are aiding a lawsuit against the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation on behalf of thousands of independent contractors.
A class action lawsuit filed in Washoe County court alleges that the agency has failed to pay recipients of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in a reasonable timeframe, and should pay claimants their fees.
The judge in the suit filed an order for DETR to explain the cause for the lack of payments, and why he should not issue an order in the case.
In a statement, DETR officials said they could not comment on the lawsuit, and are “confident” they are paying claims according to federal guidelines.
Despite the state shutdown in mid-March, PUA claimants filed in mid-May. As of Friday, DETR claims 104,000 people have received funds.
It is not clear how many eligible people are waiting for funds. Friday, the agency said 35,000 PUA applicants will receive denial letters for a lack of information to verify their claims.
“These folks need a voice. You’re talking 400,000 Nevadans,” said Steve Zuelke, a DETR supervisor who retired after 25 years. He was in charge of reviewing fraud issues in claims for traditional unemployment (UI).
Zuelke has agreed to assist the attorneys in the suit for free, all to aid the claimants.
The former employee said the complaints for the website to file for UI are not new and existed when he retired. He also says numerous experienced employees had left and not been replaced, as the agency shed staff when unemployment reached record lows.
Zuelke alleges a failure in experience, leadership and strategic planning has contributed to thousands of filers for traditional unemployment waiting months for payments, and for PUA, even longer.
Unlike other states, which requested all applicants file for UI and PUA on the same website, DETR insisted that PUA applicants file when the employnv.gov website became “live.” All PUA recipients must be vetted by DETR staff to rule out eligibility for UI. Thousands have received word in the past several days that they were eligible for UI, after all.
"They are left held hostage by the DETR administrative process," Zuelke said, claiming the “reasonable” timeframe for paying claims has passed.
DETR filed a response to the suit, stating that it bears responsibility to scrutinize claims, all to protect the “public’s money.” The agency claims paying claimants before reviewing their files is not only irresponsible but illegal; paying all claimants before adjudication, the agency claims, would initiate federal scrutiny and threaten funds for Nevadans.
The lawsuit was filed by Thierman Buck LLP out of Reno. For more information about the lawsuit, contact the law firm at 775-284-1500.