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Florida Unemployment-Withdrawing from school and Florida Work Experience Program

by Amanda
(Fort Myers, FL)

I was was discharged from my employer back in January of 2008 because of lack of work . I was unable to find work so I registered for school. As a student I received a state grant called the Florida Work Experience Program ($1000). While in school I continued to look for work and attended interviews. I worked at a middle school in the office for which I received $8.00 an hour for about 10 hours a week (funded by Florida Work Experience Program) I worked up to my award amount and was told there might be some funds left over but they did not know how much. They said they might receive new funds for the next semester but were not sure because of budget cuts. I was then told by my teacher that if I missed more than three days of school (not work) in the next semester that I would be withdrawn. I had two interviews scheduled on different days the following week. Since I was in the withdraw period I decided to withdraw and save my pell grant to move to a paralegal program at a different school. I was also able to find work at a law firm making more money than the work experience program. Keep in mind I was receiving emergency extended unemployment benefits. Upon initial review when I quit they determined that I was still eligible because I was able, available, and seeking for full time work. Then later they reviewed my claim and decided that I violated the terms of my employment by withdrawing from school. I quit for personal reasons not good cause attributable to my employer. The school was not chargeable because my employment there was not in the base period. However, florida statute says that this type of work is exempt from coverage. I am registered for school and working making three times as much money as the program but

still under my weekly benefit amount. Now they say I have any over payment since the time I withdrew. Can I win an appeal with this info and how can I get a free attorney to keep them from making me payback money that I was already approved to receive?

Hi Amanda,

I do not know if you can win the appeal, but I certainly hope so. Obviously this is an issue created not by an employer, but by the "Department".

Your argument makes sense to me .. How can the state of Florida make you repay benefits you received based upon wages they charged to an employer from which you had a qualifying separation? Additionally, if a citizen cannot depend upon Florida accurately applying their own statutes and regulations .. how on earth is an individual supposed to make an informed decision to avoid these types of problems.

Free attorney???? Legal Aid .. maybe. Attorney's are hard to find for UI hearings because most states cap or must approve the fee that is charged. Free is probably the only kind you'll be able to find, but we're talking about Florida which has a LARGE number of attorneys.

I'd crack open the phone book and start calling and trying to negotiate a flat fee. In all my years of negotiating fees with attorneys, the highest amount I ever paid was $400 for one hearing, including witness prep time. Of course the attorney was always hoping to pick up some other work from an employer in hopes of being paid a "retainer".

Have you searched the DOAH for a relevant decision?

I just used "unemployment overpayment" and got this this result.

I'm sorry I can't be more helpful, but I would be very interested to know what you find out. There seems to be a rash of questions lately about overpayment hearings. All appear to be because the state screwed up somehow.

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Apr 24, 2009
by: Amanda

My employer at the school has already said they would do anything to help me, but the department led them to believe that they we chargeable. We have since cleared this up.

1. This position was not considered employment according to florida statutes though I did claim all of my wages.

2. It was not suitable work and I was not required to accept it or keep it. In doing so I saved the Department money.

3. The only funds that I was guaranteed had run out. In other words I had finished the program.

4. My instructor told me I was not allowed to continue my search for work.

5. The Department was aware of all of this when I left. I sent the documentation the same day. They could have made a proper determination then avoided an overpayment.

6. I left to participate in an approved training program under the trade act of 1974, funded by the department for workforce innovation.

7. There were no jobs available in my course of study at the school.

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