Navigating the Unemployment Bureaucracy
Published on November 10, 2011 by guest author: R.B. Austen

I have a lot of feelings about getting downsized, but the biggest is probably a mixture of disappointment and embarrassment. The embarrassment stems largely from navigating New Hampshire’s Department of Employment Security. The thrust of this state agency is to assist job seekers with their job search and provide unemployment compensation. There are offices located throughout the state, as well as a main office that processes claims and all the associated paperwork.

The steps to applying for unemployment are super straightforward, and yet! You complete an online account that begins by asking questions about your work history, why you are unemployed (for me, the highlight was not having to mark that I was fired due to workplace attire, workplace drunkenness, etc.) and pay history.

After I completed this, I waited to learn if I would be deemed eligible. Instead, my Unemployment Correspondence Inbox received two e-mails. The “Notice of Eligibility Issue” was simply another online survey about my so-called severance pay, which consisted of my remaining vacation time being paid out. That one was easy. Once you’ve completed it, you can’t reopen it to alter any responses. Trying to be conscientious, I even asked a department staffer whether that meant it was completed, and was reassured that it did. Two weeks later, the same “Notice of Eligibility Issue” appeared in my inbox. I completed it again and, feeling frustrated, called the main office to make sure it had been received. This time, it had.

Because I actually had a human being on the phone, I asked about the other e-mail I had received, titled “Request for Information on Workers Compensation.” My new friend checked, and this e-mail still not been processed with my claim. From the get-go, dealing with this e-mail was harder, because every time my workers compensation situation - I experienced an accident on the job a year-and-a-half ago - appears closed, it resurfaces.  Immediately after I read that e-mail, I pulled all of the documentation together and brought it directly to their main office. The fact that it was still sitting in a pile somewhere, unprocessed, really bothered me, especially because everyone had reassured me that submitting this documentation was for my own good and because I had to go back to waiting for a response. 

In the midst of this, I was also required to attend an orientation, “Benefit Rights and Obligations.” About 30 of us sat in a small, hot conference room to watch a PowerPoint about the ins and outs of unemployment. The highlight was when this was interrupted for a video segment in which about 15 people who had received unemployment benefits lied about work wages they earned while still receiving those payments. During this teachable moment I tried to focus on the fact that they had found work! There was hope for me and everyone seated around me!

At some point during all of this, I stupidly posted something on Facebook regarding my frustration with Employment Security and unemployment claims. I suddenly received several comments from folks I never interact with on Facebook, voicing their own opinions and offering helpful suggestions for me. All of which made me very quickly remove this post. It was a good reminder that unemployment is a sensitive subject, and maybe something to not publicly vent about.

Three weeks after starting the process, I finally received my “Determination of Eligibility.” I fully admit that the process was frustrating because, just like being downsized, it was out of my hands. And the question of eligibility is something that I just wanted to know. I will also say that everyone I have spoken with and e-mailed at Employment Security has been helpful, prompt and given me more information than just an answer to my questions.

The most important part of submitting unemployment claims is to document and report your continued job search on a weekly basis. And while I have benefitted from a number of job interviews, the only job offer I have received thus far was for a part-time job at Ann Taylor Loft. After some consideration, I accepted because, even though retail is an unexpected venue in which to be working, I can still receive unemployment benefits. My weekly benefit payment will simply be adjusted based on my new income. I will also fully admit that probably the biggest reason I accepted this job was for the opportunity to regularly interact with people other than my husband and my fat cat, and my growing over-familiarity with cat videos on YouTube.

All of this has led me to conclude that unemployment is more comical than embarrassing, especially when next week’s mandatory group workshop is “Reemployment Assessment and Orientation.” Something to look forward to in between my continued job search, the new part-time job and submitting my weekly claims.


R.B. Austen recently joined the ranks of unemployed Americans, and hopes her time among them will be brief.
Previous Posts by this Author: Workplace Revenge
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