Filing Proper Claims - Section 8-901 - 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 Annotated Code of Maryland.
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 for which benefits are claimed.
In order to be considered timely filed, the claim must be received by the Agency no later than 5:00 pm on the Friday following the close 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.
Due to changes in technology, initial claims, weekly claims and re-opening of claims can only be done online or by telephone. Many cases in this section have been deleted as they no longer apply. Some cases that refer to mailing in claims or visiting local offices have been retained as they still, in part, represent good law. Notes have been written in italics to highlight these cases.
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.
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. Johnson v. Anne Arundel Co. Economic Opport. Comm Inc., 575-BH-00.
The Board has the inherent power to backdate claims for benefits when it finds that a claimant’s due process rights have been violated. Finding that the claimant used due diligence in filing proper claims, it was determined that Agency error and repeated systemic problems prevented the claimant from getting proper assistance to file her claims for benefits to which she was entitled. Lee, 1623-BH-02.
The claimant filed a “telecert” for the period June 8 through June 15. When an unemployment benefit was not issued to the claimant, he inquired to the Agency as to the reason and was told that the “telecert” did not go through because he did not wait for the confirmation number at the end of the call. The claimant’s native language is Russian; he speaks English but not fluently. The Agency’s telephone “help” option is in English and Spanish. The claimant, in all other respects, pursued his claim with diligence. Technical Agency-related processing needs cannot be used as a shield to bar claimants from benefits to which they are otherwise entitled and cannot deny due process. Fooksman, 3398-BH-02.
The claimant hung up his phone prematurely when trying to process a claim for one week of unemployment benefits. Consequently, he did not receive a processing number for the telecert, was denied benefits and was not allowed to remedy the situation by filing a back-dated claim. The claimant was otherwise entitled to the benefits sought. Since the unemployment laws are intended to be remedial, not punitive, a back-dated claim should have been allowed and benefits granted. Houston, 637-BR-04.
B. 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.
Relying on Agency instructional material, the claimant filed for benefits a week late. The Board noted that the claimant relied on an instructional pamphlet issued by the Agency which did not define “initial claims”, “additional claims” and “continued claims”. Finding for the claimant, the Board concluded that the instructions followed by the claimant were incomplete. McNally, 2073-BH-06.
C. 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.
D. Timely Attempts to Correct Errors
1. Timely Communication to Agency
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. NOTE: The findings in this case would also apply to instructions received by telephone or email.
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. NOTE: The findings in this case would also apply to instructions given by telephone or email.
2. Failure to Follow Agency Instructions
The claimant did not file continued claims for the weeks ending January 15, 2011 through February 5, 2011 until she reopened her claim on February 14, 2011. She failed to file the claims because she had “a lot going on” and simply forgot. The claimant characterized her failure to file as an honest mistake. The Board found that the claimant timely filed for benefits for the week ending January 29, 2011 and for the week ending February 5, 2011. The claimant had 14 days, from the Saturday of the most recent week for which she was requesting benefits, to file the claim (February 19, 2011). However the claimant did not file a timely claim for the week beginning January 9, 2011 through the week ending January 22, 2001. Harper, 1278-BR-12.
E. 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 Errors or Misinformation
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.
An Agency representative told the claimant not to file claims during the period for which she had been disqualified due to an initial determination that she received severance pay. The Board held that since the claimant reasonably relied upon erroneous information from the Agency representative, the claimant should be allowed to have her claim back dated. Bloyer, 3633-BR-11.
The claimant previously told the Agency representative that he would be out of town for two weeks and filed paperwork about this as instructed. However, the Agency still mailed him an appointment notice to be available for a Telephone Fact Finding Interview scheduled when he would be away. The Board held that the claimant did not fail to file proper claims based upon the claimant’s non-appearance at an interview scheduled when the Agency had been timely notified that he would not be able to attend. Richardson v. Leukemia Society of America, Inc., 3372-BR-11.
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.
Relying on Agency instructional material, the claimant filed for benefits a week late. The Board noted that the claimant relied on an instructional pamphlet issued by the Agency which did not define “initial claims”, “additional claims”, and “continued claims”. Finding for the claimant, the Board concluded that the instructions followed by the claimant were incomplete. McNally, 2073-BH-06.
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.