Here’s an item from the “crime doesn’t pay” file. A 37-year-old Heyburn man was placed on five years probation and ordered to repay over $15,000 in illegally claimed unemployment insurance benefits and penalties.
While your average criminal might be tempted to rob a bank, counterfeit $1,000 bills or plan a huge jewelry heist, this suspect decided that it was easier to apply for unemployment, even if he happened to be earning more than $80,000 per year at the time.
The man pleaded guilty to grand theft in late August. Under the sentence imposed by 5th District Judge Barry Wood, he will serve 4 to 14 years in prison if he fails to successfully complete probation and repay the benefits and penalties.
Between November 2002 and March 2003, the man claimed unemployment benefits even though he was working as a truck driver and was paid nearly $27,000. That works out to more than $81,000 per year.
In Idaho, unemployment benefits are paid from a trust fund financed with taxes paid by Idaho’s nearly 50,000 employers.
In 2005 Idaho Commerce & Labor’s unemployment insurance division uncovered nearly $2.5 million in unemployment insurance fraud and during the year recovered more than $3.9 million from fraud and overpayments. In addition to prosecution, stricter financial penalties for fraud were approved by the Idaho Legislature and went into effect July 1.
To track down potential fraud, the division has beefed up its team of investigators and installed a new automated computer system that quickly cross-references and checks the information it receives from claimants, such as verifying earnings.
Under state law, it is a felony for a person to obtain unemployment insurance benefits based upon a knowing misrepresentation or omission, such as misreporting earnings while claiming unemployment insurance benefits. Persons reporting suspected fraud will remain anonymous if they request it.
Such is also the case in the state of Idaho. As with most state systems for unemployment insurance that we’ve looked at, and will continue to look at, the state of Idaho’s system is based on accurate info that only the employer could have. The point—keep track of all of your human resource forms and personnel files is of utmost importance when it comes to keep on the right side of the labor laws in the state.
For instance, in the state of Idaho, the Department of Labor contacts the last employer on the unemployed worker’s form when that person make a claim for unemployment insurance. So if a so called claimant puts you down as their last employer—basically, the employer who laid them off or let them go through no fault of their own—the Idaho Department of Labor will contact you and tell you that the person is asking for unemployment insurance. The state authorities will also let you know what the former employee put down as the reason that they got let go.
That leaves you, the employer, to have to know offhand who that employee was, and why they got let go. In many cases, if you are an employer with many employees, you may never have known that former employee personally. And even if you did, you may not know that they were let go and why. In that case, personnel records can come in mighty handy.
The Idaho Department of Labor expects a prompt reply when they get in touch with you in those circumstances. They especially want a prompt reply if the claimant’s facts aren’t facts at all but fabrications. And employers, you will want to let the state know if you weren’t that person’s last employer—or if you fired them. Remember, each former employee you have collecting unemployment benefits makes your taxes higher the next year.
Employees who become involuntarily unemployed in Idaho are compensated for lost wages by the Employment Security Law. The law is made possible by the Security Trust fund, an employer, tax-funded program. I read that employees should not have to pay for this program.
Claims for unemployment must be filed immediately after a worker is let go. Employees are eligible for compensation if they are totally or partially unemployed through no fault of their own, and are US citizens or legally authorized to work in the US.
The amount a worker receives for unemployment is based upon their past earnings. The current range for unemployment weekly benefits runs from $51.00 per week minimum to $322.00 per week maximum. Workers are entitled to from 10 – 26 weeks of benefits.
During the unemployment period, a worker must actively seek, be available for, and be able to perform full-time work. Pregnant claimants are eligible for benefits according to the same rules that apply to all other claimants. As long as it does not affect looking for work, an employee can attend school or training and still receive benefits.
I know that the reasons for denying coverage to employees include:
- Quitting a job without good cause connected to the job. For good cause to be attributable to the employment, it must relate to the wages, hours, or working conditions of the job. Regardless of the cause, an employee must take reasonable steps to inform the employer of their dissatisfaction and seek to remedy the problem before they leave.
- Being fired from a job because of employment related misconduct.
- Refusing without good cause to take a job for which the employee is qualified and which pays the prevailing wage for that kind of work in the locality.
- Taking part in a strike, lockout or other industrial controversy
- Being unable, ready, or willing to work, are not prepared to take a job immediately, or are not physically or mentally capable of employment
- Applying for coverage during a vacation or holiday break if the worker is employed by an educational institution.
Employers must post a notice of the Idaho State Unemployment Law in a public place at their business. The Idaho Complete Labor Law poster reflects all the labor laws for both federal and state.