Work hard for the money
August 12, 2019 8:40 PM   Subscribe

I’m an adjunct college instructor in WA, and I am eligible for unemployment while on breaks since I am technically laid off between quarters. I quit my second job. Unemployment freaked out and I owe them money. Magic words please. I’m so frustrated.

I work at College 4 quarters a year, full time Fall/Winter/Spring and 1/3 time in summer. Since I am contracted per quarter, my state and College have agreed that I am “laid off” between quarters and am “underemployed” in summer and can collect during breaks and this quarter (which ends on thursday). The idea is that I file all summer while working and get partial payments, and then get full unemployment for the month when College is on break between mid August-mid September.

I also worked a second job for about a year at a cafe, and was fired in May for reasons unemployment considers eligible to collect for. Didn’t want to file for Cafe 1 but I was required to (???) and didn’t file until the end of June, when I filed for College.

I got another cafe job in June and quit about 2 weeks ago because I didn’t have any days off and working another job while grading, doing professional development through my college to be eligible for a raise next year and managing my depression was too damn much. I can’t work two jobs any more, I’ll collapse in a nervous pile!!

Now the unemployment office has retroactively denied my claims from when I quit the the cafe—they were fine paying me while I worked there, since I was making astronomically less total than I do during the normal school year, but quitting any job means I’m not eligible for anything at all.
I’ve filed an appeal claim for the quitting, with the explanation above (focusing on how the cafe was preventing me from completing my work at what is my primary source of income due to training/education as well as due to time spent working there) but I don’t know what else to say. I can’t tell them I expect to get classes in Fall without screwing myself out of unemployment when I get laid off in 3 days, but the paperwork tells me I can’t reapply for 7 weeks after quitting any job, and part of the reason I quit was to focus on the things which will make me more likely to both get and keep my adjunct position at College...
Are there certain phrases I should be focusing on when they call me tomorrow? Anything I shouldn’t say? I’m so frustrated and angry I could cry—I was counting on these payments to make rent for the month I don’t get paychecks from College, tiny as they are in summer (I get a check in 12 days but don’t get paid again until the middle of October and it’s literally 100 more than rent so it’s not like I can stretch it out...)

aaaugh hope me. don’t want to shout at the probably very nice person who will be calling me tomorrow between 1-4pm but if I’m still like this I’ll probably just rage cry the whole time
posted by zinful to Work & Money (3 answers total)
You can contact the Unemployment Law Project telephone helpline at (206) 441-9178 x0 or toll free 1(888) 441-9178 x0 immediately, and be clear with them that you've got an appeal hearing scheduled for tomorrow. This is not legal advice, but the magic phrase you may be looking for is "can I have more time to consult with an attorney?"

The ULP website also has a Self-Help section, and a FAQ section that includes What if I can’t make the hearing date or time?
posted by Little Dawn at 10:30 PM on August 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm in Maryland and don't have experience with unemployment in WA, but a few months ago I appealed my unemployment denial and won. Like yours, the appeal was by phone.

I was very nervous going in but found the experience less stressful than I thought it would be. I had ample time to tell my side of things, and the administrative law judge did not penalize me for failing to reign in my emotions while describing the sexism that made me quit my job. He accurately assessed that it wasn't a voluntary quit. My denial was reversed.

I don't know how typical my experience was, just wanted to share with you so that it might give you a hopeful example of how things went well in a similar circumstance.

As for magic words, I would avoid mentioning why you need the money and just focus on why your quit wasn't really voluntary.

I wish you the best of luck. Higher Ed's reliance on underpaid adjuncts is so shameful.
You have my sympathies for having to try to cope with both depression and an impossible work situation.
posted by nirblegee at 5:56 AM on August 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

In your appeal, tell them that because of how the cafe did scheduling, you couldn't keep both jobs. Don't tell them that you couldn't because it was too stressful; they won't care.
posted by metasarah at 8:44 AM on August 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

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