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Ohio Unemployment Claimants with Overpayments Can Now Apply for Waivers

Laura Wilson

On July 13, 2021, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), the state agency that oversees the unemployment system in Ohio, announced that unemployment claimants who received notice of a non-fraud overpayment for overpayments that they received at no fault of their own can now request waivers. If a claimant’s waiver request is approved, it would excuse the claimant from repaying those funds to the state. In addition, money will be returned to claimants who qualify for a waiver but who previously repaid the overpayment.
“Federal changes in unemployment rules, criteria, and claims volume resulted in widespread overpayments of benefits across the nation,” Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) Director Matt Damschroder said. “We know that created a tremendous amount of stress for those already struggling, and these waivers will offer relief to individuals with valid unemployment claims whose overpayments were not their fault.”
ODJFS officials have begun notifying individuals, by U.S. mail or electronically, who are potentially eligible and are providing them with detailed instructions for how to apply.
Later this summer, once system programming is complete, the waiver applications will be reviewed, and approved waivers honored.
Notifications are being sent to claimants in the traditional unemployment program and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. If approved, all portions of overpayments could be waived, including the supplemental weekly $600 and $300 payments that were previously available as a result of federal stimulus legislation.
Those claimants who received Trade, SharedWork Ohio, and other types of unemployment benefits also may be eligible for waivers.

Traditional UI- How to Request an Overpayment Waiver

How to Request an Overpayment Waiver in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) System

More information and Frequently Asked Questions about unemployment claims in Ohio

 

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Where the Schoolyard Ends: School Speech in the Information Age

Spencer Campbell - Law Clerk at Freking Myers & Reul

Where do we draw the line between protecting students’ right to free speech, and protecting the education environment of our schools?
This is the central question in the arena of School Speech law, which has been defined by landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases over the years. Tinker v. Des Moines held in 1969 that students could protest the Vietnam War so long as they did not “materially disrupt the classroom” or cause “substantial disorder” within the school. In a 2007 case, Morse v. Frederick the Supreme Court held that students could not use their student speech to encourage illegal activity when a group of Alaskan students raised a banner that said, “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” But as everyone knows by now, the internet has changed everything, and both school and student speech look different today than they did 60 years ago.
On June 23, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case about a teenager’s controversial Snapchat messages which criticized her school, her cheerleading team, her softball team, and, well, everything else. The student’s name is Brandi Levy, and when she found out she did not make the varsity cheerleading squad at her high school, she vented her frustration to her private friends on the app, Snapchat. “F*** school f*** softball f*** cheer f*** everything,” said the message, (with the full curse word) which circulated to a few hundred of her followers on the app before the message self-deleted after 24 hours. In response to her social media post, Ms. Levy was suspended from the cheer squad. When her appeal to the school board failed, she and her parents sued in federal court.
The case, Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., made its way up to the United States Supreme Court, and is sure to be a landmark case for school speech in the information age. The Court decided that Ms. Levy’s speech was protected, and the school was wrong to suspend her. After all, the Court repeated its view from the 1969 Tinker case that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
The Court did caution, however, that while the school in Ms. Levy’s case did not have a compelling special interest to restrict her freedom of speech, other circumstances might allow them to discipline a student for speech that disrupts classes, involves threats or bullying, or somehow interferes with the school’s ability to function. Ultimately, Mahanoy is a win for student speech. It affirms a student’s right to speak freely, even about school matters, when that speech happens off campus and the school has no special interest in the matter.
If you are experiencing a student speech issue, or any school-related legal concern, the attorneys at Freking Myers & Reul are ready to consult with you.

 

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Farmworkers lost in the Supreme Court. What about the rest of labor?

Rachel Rekowski - Law Clerk at Freking Myers & Reul
June 2021 Supreme Court decision – Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid

In 1975, California became the first state in the nation to grant collective bargaining rights to farmworkers. A few months later, the newly-created agricultural labor board adopted a regulation that allowed union organizers to access farm property in order to educate workers on their union rights. Organizers were permitted to enter worksites in the hour before and after work and during lunch breaks for up to 120 days a year. The regulation was a major victory for the farmworkers’ movement led by Cesar Chavez, who saw meeting with workers in the fields as the only practical way to organize because many agricultural workers are nomadic, poorly educated on their labor rights, and living in remote areas.
In Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, the Supreme Court considered whether California’s access regulation violates the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution which reads: “Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, held that California’s regulation “grants labor organizations a right to invade the growers’ property,” and therefore, it amounted to a taking of private property without just compensation. The decision favors property rights over the rights of working people to collectively organize. In fact, the majority opinion did not mention the reality farmworkers face if unions cannot reach them in the fields. Many farmworkers will have no way to learn about their labor rights, leaving them vulnerable to abuse.

Why do farmworkers need state labor protections?

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is the federal law that governs collective bargaining, giving most employees the right to join a union and negotiate a contract free from employer intimidation and retaliation. However, when Congress passed the NLRA in 1935, farmworkers were specifically excluded. According to historians, the exclusion of farmworkers (and domestic workers) from the act was motivated by racial animus, as most workers in those jobs were mainly Black and Latino. 86 years later, farmworkers remain excluded from the NLRA.
Congress also excluded farmworkers from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which guarantees workers a minimum wage, overtime pay, and other job protections. In 1966, the FLSA was amended to partially include farmworkers in some parts of the law, but farmworkers remain ineligible for overtime pay unless state law requires it.
As a result of these exclusions, farmworkers face brutal working conditions with low pay, and many fear retaliation if they speak up or try to organize. That is why farmworkers rely on states to pass legislation. In states without collective bargaining protections, farmworkers can still form a union, but the employer does not have to negotiate with them and can legally retaliate against workers.

What effect will the Supreme Court decision have on organized labor going forward?

The latest decision from the Supreme Court is no doubt a blow to organized labor and another decision that limits the power of unions. But practically, the Cedar Point Nursery decision seems to only effect California farmworker unions because the access regulation is unique to California.
The law has limited union access to an employer’s property for decades. Generally, employers are allowed to forbid nonemployee union organizers from entering their property, unless the jobsite and employee housing places workers “beyond the reach” of a union’s reasonable communication efforts. Only a small portion of the American workforce qualify as being beyond the reach of a union, like some remote miners and offshore drillers. So, while the recent Cedar Point Nursery decision is unwelcome news and a major loss for California farmworkers, not much will practically change for most unions in the country.

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The NCAA and Student Athletes: Compensation for a Unique Labor Force

Spencer Campbell - Law Clerk at Freking Myers & Reul

Nearly since the very beginning of college sports, student athletes have had a unique place in the labor market. Before the creation of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), colleges were spending massive amounts of money to lure athletes to play on their school teams. In fact, the problem got so bad that student athletes were making more money than professional athletes for a time. College football was known to be especially corrupt and unethical at the turn of the 20th century, which prompted the creation of the NCAA in 1906. Players were paid higher salaries than business executives and would change teams from week to week based on who paid them the most. This picture of college athletes making fistfuls of cash playing an unregulated game stands in stark contrast to the world of college sports that we see today.
In the modern landscape of college athletics, the NCAA exercises broad control over how schools are allowed to compensate and compete for student athletes. The NCAA’s rules on compensation are strict and have been criticized for years. Until recently, NCAA rules restricted schools to offering only scholarship money to student athletes. Additionally, student athletes were barred from profiting off of their name or likeness while competing for an NCAA team. But on Monday, June 21, 2021, the United States Supreme Court took up the question of the NCAA’s broad authority over student athlete compensation. The Court rendered a unanimous decision that loosens the NCAA’s ban on any compensation for student athletes beyond scholarships.
The case was brought by a collection of student athletes against the NCAA and 11 Division-I conferences. The Court’s decision came in two parts. First, the Court found that the NCAA’s rules surrounding scholarship and direct compensation to athletes are allowed, because they serve to draw a line between college and professional sports. But the Court ruled in favor of the student athletes in the second part. The Court held that the NCAA cannot restrict the extent to which schools offer student athletes education-related benefits, such as computers and other technology for school, internships, and tuition for graduate school.
While the Court punted on the question of whether student athletes could be paid directly, its decision provides a small win for this unique labor force. While we won’t see Division-I quarterbacks making millions of dollars while still in school anytime soon, we may see schools competing for athletes by offering textbooks, tutoring, or study-abroad experiences. For now, student athletes can directly benefit a little bit more from the value that they bring to their schools, but the “amateur” nature of college sports remains under the tightfisted supervision of the NCAA.
For more information read:
National Collegiate Athletic Association, Petitioner v. Shawne Alston, et al.

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Personal Injury Claims During a Pandemic and Beyond: “Beyond” What Will We Take With Us?

Austin LiPuma

Perhaps one of, if not the biggest, lessons from the past 15 months has been learning to abstain from grand declarations about what the future will hold. With that important qualifier, I am placing this particular post in the “beyond” category. Almost a year to the date, this blog began not knowing what the world would look like in June, 2021. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that for much of the world, the Pandemic rages on. At home, we were blessed with an objective medical miracle in the form of efficacious vaccines—entering my office last week to several glowing smiles did wonders for my headspace.

However, it remains clear that “beyond” does not mean “back.” Despite how much conflict we collectively create, humans have an exceptional ability to adapt. And adapt we did. Look how much time, money, and resources were saved for clients when utilizing technology in a smart way. For starters, look no further than the obvious tech elephant in everyone’s virtual room: Zoom. In an incredibly-not-empirically-based poll I conducted on Linkedin, 54% of respondents indicated that they would continue to use Zoom in a professional context post-pandemic. An additional 38% responded that they would use Zoom “as often as [they] can.” There are obviously some noteworthy exceptions to the agency of Zoom. While it was a wonderful tool in many contexts (personally, I thought mediations were particularly effective), there are times and places where attempting to virtualize personal contact just does not cut it. Jury trials being perhaps the biggest one.

With all that said, “beyond” means acknowledging what we have endured. Our field often lacks in access and inclusivity. The Pandemic allowed many of us to continue to practice because these tools broadened both accessibility and inclusivity. In an increasingly globalized and inter-connected world, embracing these aspects is the prudent move. As we all continue to move beyond let’s aid each other in not falling back.

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