FOX13 talks to a Memphis employment law attorney

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Almost as scary as the COVID-19 pandemic is the damage that’s being done to the American economy. Jobless numbers are reaching highs that haven’t been seen since the recession in 2008.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has the current unemployment rate at 4.4 percent. But most economists agree that the real number is double digits. Possibly as high as 13 percent and rising.

FOX13 asked Memphis employment law attorney Alan Crone about how the Labor Department is dealing with the crush of brand new unemployment filings, all of which are being done online and certainly creating a bottleneck in the system.

Crone said, “I think it will create some headaches but I think people need to power through it. I know that’s easy to say, hard to do. I’ve talked to a lot of people over the last several days who’ve reported the website crashing and other things. I think it’s getting better. One thing to keep in mind is, when you apply, your benefits should be retroactive back to the day you qualify.”

Your application is retroactive to the day you became eligible.

The Labor Department reported late last week that more than 10 million people filed for unemployment over the last two weeks alone. Typically, we’d only see a few hundred thousand people file in any two week period. Crone said that thankfully, the Labor Department is well versed in taking those applications online and processing them quickly.

“The problem with that is it’s now difficult to get a good responsive answer in real-time. When do I get my benefits? How do I do this? That sort of thing and I think a lot of people have been frustrated by that. I think people have also been frustrated that it’s taken some time for the department to figure out how they are going to process these claims, get the website updated. I’m not criticizing the department. It was a lot to do. And I know from talking to people they’ve worked awfully hard to get where we are now. But it is frustrating,” he said.

So the keyword is patience. Remember everyone is going through this.

The new Family Leave Act gives people time off to take care of themselves, close relatives, or even children. But if you are unemployed, can you use the benefits provided by the new act while collecting your unemployment? The answer is no. Employment attorney Alan Crone said the new law is so new, everyone is still figuring out how to apply it.

“Everybody is new to this,” he said. “And your employer may not even know about these benefits. So you may have to be prepared to educate your employer on this. You may have to have one of the Department of Labor bulletins handy to email them and say with all due respect, if you haven’t seen this, here is something from the government you may want to look at. And again, be patient with people. You know we are all trying to get through this. I’ve talked with business owners who want to do the right thing, to figure out how to comply and at the same time help their workers.”

So, be educated, and be patient. Help to inform your boss where you need to.