Georgia tells company's workers to repay jobless benefits
Georgia's Department of Labor is seeking $28G repayment
The Georgia Department of Labor is demanding the repayment of unemployment benefits from current and former employees of an Atlanta restaurant group, saying the employer made mistakes in filing unemployment claims.
WXIA-TV reports that the state labor agency is seeking nearly $28,000 from Kacey Carelson, one of the former employees of Rocket Farm Restaurants. The Atlanta company, led by chef Ford Fry, runs 11 restaurants across metro Atlanta, including four Superica restaurants.
"That’s half my year’s salary," Carelson said. "I can’t live if I pay that back. I’m a little taken aback by the whole situation."
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Department spokesperson Kersha Cartwright said that errors such as misspellings, incorrect Social Security numbers or incorrect wages could lead to unintentional fraud, trigging an overpayment of benefits. She did not say how much money the Labor Department requested from the Rocket Farm Restaurants employees or what mistake led to the overpayment of benefits. Cartwright said unintentional fraud does not happen often.
"We’re in charge of managing state and federal funds," Cartwright said. "So if there were funds that went to the wrong person, we’re required to recoup those."
The department required employers to file unemployment claims at the start of the pandemic, seeking to speed benefit payments and keep employees on payrolls.
She said the department is working with the company and employees. She said employees could file a waiver to possibly have the debt forgiven.
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Carelson, now working with another restaurant group, said she has filed several appeals and sent in her waiver, has yet to receive a response. She also said Rocket Farm is struggling to communicate with former workers.
"It’s intimidating, it’s nerve-wracking. The amount of nights I’ve lost sleep, panicked about how I’m going to pay this back," Carelson said. "What if they garnish wages like they say. Am I going to jail for fraud?"
Rocket Farm says it has heard from "numerous" employees about overpayment notices and has been asked by the Labor Department for records regarding some employees for part of 2020. The company said it has submitted revised earning statements for employees and has committed to paying any resulting penalties and interest assessed by the department that stemmed from inaccurate wage reporting.
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"This was an extraordinary process during an extraordinary time, and we remain committed to helping our employees by correcting any inaccurate unemployment submission," the company told WXIA-TV.