ACLU files lawsuit against DLT for lack of notification over frozen UI benefits

The suit was filed three weeks after reports first emerged of frozen payments to thousands of residents who lost their job, according to the ACLU.

PROVIDENCE, R.I (WLNE) – Attorneys with the RI ACLU are filing a class-action lawsuit claiming the DLT froze weekly unemployment insurance benefits to hundreds of residents without notice.

The suit was filed three weeks after reports first emerged of frozen payments to thousands of residents who lost their job, according to the ACLU.

Hundreds of unemployment accounts in Rhode Island were frozen recently as authorities probed for possible fraudulent claims. But many people were not notified that their benefits had been stopped.

“None of them got notice before the benefits were frozen,” said Attorney on behalf of the ACLU Ellen Saideman. “None of them got written notice after.”

Saideman says their lawsuit seeks to ensure that the Department of Labor and Training will notify people if there is an issue with their benefits in the future.

“People are entitled to notice before their benefits are terminated,” said Saideman. “They’re entitled to know what the problem is and how it can be fixed.”

One of those people who found themselves worrying about paying their bills was Randall Pelletier.

“Anxiety was building up not getting any answers from the department of labor and training,” said Pelletier. “My only other option was to dip into my retirement plan which I really didn’t want to do.”

A spokesperson for the DLT said that people whose accounts are paused receive a phone call. But Pelletier says he spent hours on hold trying to figure out what was wrong, but never got any answers.

“To sit on the phone and deal with that and not know what’s going on, it’s very aggravating,” he said.

Fortunately Pelletier only went without benefits for two weeks and he’s back at work now. However another man named in the lawsuit has still not been paid for the last month.

“We’re very concerned that there are many people in desperate situations because they’re not having access to the benefits that they’re entitled to by law,” said Saideman.

Many accounts have been unfrozen by now.

The DLT says Rhode Islanders should continue reporting any issues they have with their claims.

 

©WLNE-TV/ABC6 2020

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