Arnold & Porter Expands Unemployment Benefits Pro Bono Program In Response to Evolving Pandemic-Related Needs
Dan Cantor, Chair of Arnold & Porter’s Pro Bono Committee explained: "When we launched the program 8 months ago, we knew we were in unprecedented times and that there was a real need for pro bono assistance regarding unemployment benefits. However, we could never have guessed that as we approach the holiday season, there would be large numbers of unemployed workers still awaiting benefits, and that the threat of further economic disruption and additional job losses would remain." Cantor also noted: "We have expanded our program, which began with a focus on the restaurant industry, to cover all industries. The team continues to help individuals navigate the unemployment regulatory systems, resolve problems, and obtain much needed benefits. Unfortunately, we have seen an increasing number of instances where individuals are wrongly denied benefits. In those cases, we actively litigate appeals to help unemployed workers receive the benefits they are entitled to. We are honored to assist unemployed workers in their efforts to obtain much needed unemployment benefits. There are too many people who have fallen between the cracks of the state unemployment programs. We remain committed to using our legal training to help unemployed workers receive the benefits they are entitled to."
The Arnold & Porter unemployment pro bono program initially teamed with the James Beard Foundation and focused on unemployed restaurant employees. The program continues to assist large numbers of restaurant industry workers. In addition, the program has expanded to assist workers in numerous additional industries, including hotel workers, parking garage attendants, retail workers, taxi drivers, ride share drivers, child care workers, actors, musicians, journalists, warehouse workers, comics, hair stylists, stadium workers, university workers, nurses, and minor league athletes. The program receives referrals from numerous organizations, including Legal Aid Society of DC, Bread for the City, Tahirih Justice Center, Volunteers of Legal Service, and word of mouth. Cantor explained: "Our partnerships with legal services providers are invaluable, as these organizations provide important subject matter expertise. We also receive quite a few referrals through word of mouth. For example, after successfully assisting a furloughed waitress, we received requests for assistance from three of her colleagues. Happily, we were able to help all obtain full benefits."
The firm’s work ranges from providing basic information about unemployment benefits to assisting workers in resolving regulatory holdups to appealing denials of unemployment benefits. In Washington, DC, the team has litigated and prevailed on seven appeals, obtaining previously denied benefits for its clients. In one case, a bartender was denied several weeks of benefits because he missed a deadline for submitting certain requested documentation while he was quarantining after contracting COVID. On appeal, the Arnold & Porter team established that there was good cause for the delay in submitting the requested information and that the worker was entitled to full past benefits. In another case, a parking garage attendant was denied approximately eight weeks of benefits because he did not see a request for additional information when the request from the government was caught in his email spam folder. The Arnold & Porter team proved that the worker had acted diligently when he learned of the request and was entitled to full benefits. In a third appeal, the firm challenged the denial of benefits to a young mother who was taking some time off from her job to care for her infant when the pandemic struck. Her employer mistakenly reported that the client had voluntarily quit her job. The Arnold & Porter team established on appeal that the worker had intended to resume working and thus qualified for unemployment benefits.
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