As of this past August, the state of Florida’s Unemployment Compensation (UC) program became completely automated. People can only apply online over the Internet and not by phone or with paper forms anymore. People have to take a skills test online and people have to report work search with five employers each week online. While the toll-free call centers still operate statewide, it is sometimes hard to get through to a live operator and they don’t offer much in the way of individualized assistance over the phone when you do get through. Additionally some people are being directed to visit One-Stop centers (or other Regional Workforce Boards such as Worksource) for in-person interactions with DOE where accommodations for computer access are rarely provided. Further, there seems to be no notice about how one would request such accommodations.
With so many people out of work, the UC program needs to operate at peak efficiency and accuracy. Putting everything online was supposed to make it easier and faster for clients, but unfortunately, as often happens, the agency did not think through how to provide individualized service to people with a need for an accommodation, including those with disabilities or an inability to read or understand English, Spanish, or Creole.
On behalf of a Miami non-profit, Florida Legal Services filed a federal administrative complaint against the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), which runs the UC program. The complaint says the UC program discriminates against unemployment claimants’ civil rights because the online system is too difficult for applicants with disabilities or limited English proficiency to use. The complaint is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor.
If you know an individual who had difficulty interacting with the UC system after August 1, 2011, we would like you to contact us so we can let the Department of Labor know how the program affects actual people. You can reach us at:
Valory Greenfield, Florida Legal Services attorney
Phone 305-573-0092 ext. 205 (Voice only)
Cindy Huddleston, Florida Legal Services attorney
Phone 850-701-1814 (Voice only)
We are interested in your feedback even if the client has already been assisted and the problem has been resolved. Thanks for any information you can provide.
NOTE: The particular complaint we are working on does not address employer-related discrimination against persons with disabilities. For example, employer-related discrimination would be when an employer tells a job applicant “we don’t hire people in wheelchairs” or says “we have no ASL interpreter so we can not interview deaf people for jobs.” For employer-related discrimination, contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at http://www.eeoc.gov/ or the Florida Human Relations Commission at http://fchr.state.fl.us/.