Straight talk on unemployment compensation
An interview with Chief Financial Officer Cindy Conger
Fermilab Today: Some employees have expressed frustration at the level of information Fermilab has provided about unemployment compensation. Is the laboratory trying to make it difficult for employees to collect unemployment insurance?
Cindy Conger: No. We are frustrated too at the difficulty in getting definitive answers from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Determination of a person's entitlement to unemployment payments is solely the decision of the IDES. The laboratory will not contest any unemployment claim filed due to the furlough.
FT: What has Fermilab learned about unemployment compensation? Where can employees find this information?
CC: The IDES has an extensive Web site where you can file a claim online and find information on claim certification, benefit amounts, partial benefits and other relevant topics.
FT: There seems to be a lot of specific information you don't have. Why not?
CC: Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to get answers on our specific situation from IDES representatives. We HAVE learned that IDES cannot provide specifics until a claim has been filed, and that each claim is evaluated individually. (See this message from IDES supervisor Kitty Johnson) If you do file a claim and are willing to share your experience, please contact Heather Sidman in WDRS.
FT: If employees collect unemployment insurance, how does that affect Fermilab?
CC: The laboratory is self-insured for unemployment costs. The state bills Fermilab for each unemployment claim paid.
FT: Does that mean employees should not attempt to collect unemployment insurance?
CC: Absolutely not. It is your right under the law to collect all unemployment benefits to which you are entitled. As I said earlier, the laboratory will not contest any claim for unemployment that is granted by IDES due to the furlough.
FT: When employees file for unemployment compensation, should they list Fermilab or FRA as their employer?
CC: They should list FRA, our legal employer.
FT: Will Fermilab keep trying to get more information? How can employees find it?
CC: We have gotten an indication that an IDES representative may be willing to visit the Laboratory to answer employees' questions. We are pursuing that option, and if we succeed there will be information in Fermilab Today and on the Furlough web site.
FT: It appears that rolling furloughs may make it hard for some employees to get unemployment compensation. Did this motivate the decision to impose rolling furloughs rather than to shut down for a month?
CC: No. It was an operational decision. As Pier said in the All-Hands meeting, we believe the rolling furlough will allow us to deliver on the existing program to the maximum extent possible.
FT: Will the laboratory give furloughed employees Low Earning Reports?
CC: The Laboratory will provide a Low Earnings Report to employees earning
less than $369 in a work week due to furlough. In order to request the
report, bring your pay stub to the Payroll Department (WH-4E). Please do
not request a Low Earnings Report unless you intend to file a claim for
unemployment benefits. In other cases the laboratory will provide a Low
Earnings Report upon request of the Illinois Department of Employment
Security after the employee has filed a claim.