Wednesday, July 26, 2017

New workers’ guide to unemployment law is available

A Workers’ Guide to Unemployment Insurance has just been updated. Significantly revised or new sections include:
  • notes about on-line claim-filing and timely appeals
  • examples of what actions can count as valid job searches
  • exclusions from receiving unemployment benefits when also receiving SSDI benefits
  • the new voluntary drug test reporting
  • misconduct disqualifications for negligent conduct that causes substantial damage or for absenteeism as determined by whatever the employer sets
  • descriptions about how the three exceptions to substantial fault are applied
  • in the fraud and concealment section, examples of the kind of mistakes for which DWD has typically charged unemployment fraud which the Commission usually overturns
  • DWD contact info for various records requests

If you have any unemployment claims or issues in Wisconsin, make sure to read this booklet thoroughly.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Unemployment concealment on WORT Labor Radio

Beginning at the 21st minute, the Nov. 18th show of Labor Radio on WORT featured supervising attorney Kevin Magee and law student Jen Bizzotto on the changes concealment have wrought on unemployment claims. Their comments were part of the Department of Workforce Development's Nov. 17th public hearing on unemployment issues in Wisconsin.

If you don't know about the danger concealment poses to claimants, check out this post.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Clinic featured on WORT Labor Radio

For its May 6th show, Labor Radio on WORT had Marilyn Townsend discuss what the UI clinic does for workers and how law students from UW-Madison Law School help those in need and gain valuable legal and life experience along the way. Go to the 15:40 minute mark of the recording.

Marilyn Townsend was also a guest on the April 29th Labor Radio show, when she discussed (starting at the 22:30 minute mark) her victory in a clinic UI case -- Operton v. LIRC -- regarding how to apply the new substantial fault disqualification. Marilyn represented a clinic client all the way to a state appeals court and won a major victory for workers. The appeals court held that the substantial fault disqualification cannot apply to inadvertent errors an employee makes no matter how many warnings the employee receives. Errors are errors, the appeals court explained, and a warning to not make an error again does not suddenly transform an error into an intentional act.

Finally, during the same May 6th show (at the 10:40 minute mark) that Marilyn discussed the UI clinic, another supervising attorney from the clinic, Victor Forberger, discussed the Department's April 2nd changes to the definition of concealment (aka unemployment fraud) that make claimants strictly liable for their mistakes. For more information about concealment, read the numerous concealment entries at Wisconsin Unemployment.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Annual report to Dane County Bar Association for 2015

The majority of the clinic's funding comes from the pro bono trust fund of the Dane County Bar Association.  The clinic's 2015 report to the DCBA pro bono trust fund is now available.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

DWD's re-institution of the flier for the unemployment clinic

Here is a letter from the clinic's managing attorney describing the return of the clinic flier being mailed out to folks in Dane County claiming unemployment benefits:

I am the managing attorney for the unemployment clinic that receives funds from the Pro Bono Trust Fund and for which numerous law students volunteer.

I need to draw your attention to recent developments that could have significantly affected the unemployment clinic. Thanks to prompt action by the Department of Workforce Development ("Department" or "DWD"), however, these issues have been ameliorated. Still, I believe that both of you should be aware of what occurred, and so I am writing about what developed and how the issues were corrected.

For nearly all of the twenty years since the clinic started operations in 1984, the primary mechanism for claimants finding out about the clinic was a flier that the Department included in denied initial determinations mailed to Dane County residents.

In the spring of 2014, however, clinic attendance began declining markedly. In March, the Department of Workforce Development stopped sending to claimants in Dane County the one-page fliers about the unemployment clinic that they previously had received with their initial determinations. Instead, the Department sent out a handout with hearing notices that said to go to a website — — for legal resources in unemployment law. There was no obvious description of where legal assistance was available to claimants on this web page. Rather, once at this website, claimants needed to click on the link for how to file an appeal — Then, in a small box on the right, they needed to click on a link for legal help for an appeal — That final link led to a PDF document that had new information about unemployment clinics in Madison and Milwaukee as well as legal assistance available from Legal Action of Wisconsin (see the clinic's website for details about these changes at The clinic was never consulted about these changes, and numerous inquiries were needed before this basic information was finally disclosed in July 2014.

Because of this change in the clinic flier, attendance was much reduced. For the 2013-14 reporting period ending on 1 April 2014, 257 appointments were scheduled and nearly 200 of those led to client interviews by law students. These numbers average around 21 appointments a month and 16 client interviews a month (or around 5 appointments and four interviews a week). Based on five months of data (May through September), the clinic averaged 9 appointments a month and 7 client interviews. In September, the clinic started tracking how clients found out about the clinic. Of the 11 clients at the clinic in September (around three per week), only two reported finding out about the clinic through the Department's revamped handout or website.

After several e-mail messages and phone calls, on September 4th clinic attorneys and the United Way's services coordinator met with DWD staffers about the clinic flier no longer being mailed out. Additional e-mail messages and phone calls. Through these efforts, the information the Department included on its website about the clinic as well as the unemployment clinic in Milwaukee and the representation available from Legal Action of Wisconsin was corrected. The Department also agreed to send out its new handout directing claimants to its website earlier in the process — when initial determinations were issued — rather than with the hearing notice, and the Department added the following sentence to its handout: "Free legal help may be available for your appeal, please see"

For the clinic, however, these solutions were inadequate, as clinic attendance did not rebound. A new clinic flier was drafted to meet some of the Department's concerns — that it be smaller to allow for translations into Spanish and Hmong — but the Department appeared to be raising three main objections to mailing a flier with initial determinations: (1) postage costs, (2) unfairness to employers, and (3) a printed flier went against the Depart­ment's push for claimants to go on-line.

But, in an October 15th e-mail message the Department informed the clinic that: (1) a full-page legal help flier (available on DWD's website at has been inserted in the initial determination letters for claimants in Madison and Milwaukee since September 15th; (2) handouts (1/3 page notifying parties that the hearing booklet and that a free legal help flier is available on-line) continue to be placed in the Notice of Hearings from the Madison and Milwaukee Hearing Offices; (3) enough printed legal help fliers had been printed to mail out with initial determinations until the fall of 2015, and that the re-drafted clinic flier will be considered for use then when the flier is updated; (4) postage costs were not an issue with mailing out a clinic flier but rather the initial decision to stop mailing out the flier turned on encouraging party's self-service through obtaining information from on-line resources; and (5) in 2014 (week ending 01/01/14 to week ending 10/04/14), there were 9,523 legal initial determinations mailed to 7,635 claimants residing in Dane county which averages to approximately 238 legal initial determinations and 190 claimant mailings per week.

Because of these changes, in October clinic attendance noticeably improved. The clinic is now averaging more than five appointments and five client interviews per week. Thanks to the steps taken by the Department, the clinic is again providing significant assistance to individuals in unemployment hearings and offering to law students the kind opportunities at litigation only available through the clinic.

So, the clinic very much appreciates the Departments efforts at resolving these issues relating to the flier, and I hope this kind of mutual dialogue between the clinic and the Department can continue.

Victor Forberger
managing attorney for the clinic

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Handouts explaining clinic resources no longer being sent to claimants

Earlier this year, DWD stopped sending claimants in Dane County who had appealed their initial determinations this previous handout, which explains how claimants can seek out free legal assistance for their unemployment cases.

Now, DWD is only sending the following handout, which tells them to go to this website for legal resources in unemployment law.  There is no obvious description of where legal assistance is available to claimants on this web page.  Rather, once at this website, claimants need to click on the link for how to file an appeal. Then, in a small box on the right, they need to click on a link for legal help for an appeal. That final link gets them a PDF document that has the following information about unemployment clinics in Madison and Milwaukee as well as legal assistance available from Legal Action of Wisconsin:


Free help is available to assist you with your appeal. The Milwaukee Unemployment Appeals Clinic, Legal Action of Wisconsin and the Madison Unemployment Appeals Clinic offer this help.

  • Unemployment Appeals Clinics provide a trained law student who will evaluate your case. Attorneys supervise the law student, but will not represent you at the hearing. Not all cases are accepted. If your case is accepted, the law student will represent you at the hearing. There is no fee for services provided by the Clinic. However, you may have to pay to subpoena witnesses, if they are necessary.
  • Legal Action of Wisconsin provides volunteer attorneys, if available. Advice is given free but will not be given over the phone. Certain eligibility requirements need to be met before being accepted.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO NEXT? If you disagree with the unemployment insurance determination, you must request a hearing by filing an appeal. Follow the instructions on the back of the determination for filing an appeal.

AFTER YOU FILE YOUR APPEAL, make an appointment:

Milwaukee: Call the Unemployment Appeals Clinic (414) 287-1181, Marquette University Law School, during the school year: mid-January through May and September through mid-December. Appointments are scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. usually on Mondays or Tuesdays (may vary depending on student class schedules) at Marquette University Law School, 1215 West Michigan Street, Milwaukee.

Milwaukee: Call the Legal Action of Wisconsin Intake Line (414) 278-7714. The Intake Line is open only on Tuesdays from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Thursdays 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Madison: Call the Unemployment Appeals Clinic (608) 246-HELP (4357), UW Law School. All appointments are scheduled for Monday evenings from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 the Labor Temple, 1602 S. Park Street, Madison.

Please bring all your paperwork with you at the time of your appointment.

Unemployment Appeals Clinics and Legal Action of Wisconsin are not part of Wisconsin State government in any way, and receive no funding from the state. Unemployment Appeals Clinics and Legal Action of Wisconsin do not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, sex or other factors not relevant to eligibility for unemployment benefits.

Monday, July 8, 2013

New job search requirements go into effect

DWD has begun implementing the new job search requirements that went into effect with the budget act.

You now need to apply for work with four employers each week you claim benefits. And, you will need to keep these job search records for 52 weeks.

DWD has created a specific form -- UCB-12 -- for recording your job search efforts. You can download various versions of this form at this link.