Notice of Class Action Settlement and Hearing

ATTENTION GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF LABOR UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE CLAIMANTS:

NOTICE OF CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT AND HEARING

Von King, et al. v. Georgia Department of Labor, et al. (U.S.D.C. Northern Dist. Ga. 1:21-CV-03082-JPB) is a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of unemployment insurance claimants in Georgia. The case concerns alleged failure to timely issue non-monetary determinations of eligibility for benefits; alleged failure to timely issue payment of benefits; and, alleged failure to timely conduct appeal hearings during the period of March 1, 2020, to present.

The Court has certified this case as a class action. This means that the case will apply not only to the people who filed the case, but also other individuals that may fall within one of the three classes, the Prompt Determination Class, the Prompt Payment Class, and the Prompt Appeal Class, as defined below. The parties have reached a settlement of the case and are asking the Court to approve the Settlement Agreement. This Notice is being published to inform you of the proposed settlement of this class action lawsuit.

Why am I Receiving This Notice? You have been identified by the parties as a possible Class Member.

Who is Included in the Class? Prompt Determination Class: This class includes all individuals who (a) have been partially or totally unemployed between March 1, 2020, and the present; (b) have applied for unemployment benefits distributed by the Georgia Department of Labor; (c) did not receive a non-monetary determination within four weeks of their application; and, (d) are still awaiting a non-monetary determination.

Prompt Payment Class: This class includes all individuals who (a) have been partially or totally unemployed between March 1, 2020, and the present; (b) have applied for unemployment benefits distributed by the Georgia Department of Labor; (c) received a determination that they were eligible; and, (d) are still awaiting a payment.

Prompt Appeal Class: This class includes all individuals who (a) have been partially or totally unemployed between March 1, 2020, and the present; (b) have applied for unemployment benefits distributed by the Georgia Department of Labor; (c) received an initial determination that they were ineligible; (d) filed a timely appeal; (e) did not receive an appellant hearing and determination within four weeks of their initial determination; and, (f) are still awaiting a hearing or determination.

What Does the Proposed Settlement Provide? If the Court approves the settlement agreement, the Georgia Department of Labor (“GDOL”) agrees to enhance communications, to make upgrades to its on-line systems, and to accelerate the appeals process by upgrading its data processing systems:

  • GDOL will continue to maintain a web-based claimant portal, which provides claimants with information about their claims, and to include enhancements such as a progress bar, which will inform claimants of the status of their claim;
  • GDOL will provide claimants with electronic notification that action may be required in order to complete the processing of his or her claim;
  • GDOL has and will continue to implement improvements to its telephone system that include Artificial Intelligence that streamline the call process and provide an improved user interface;
  • GDOL will continue ongoing efforts to improve public facing guidance to clarify GDOL instructions relating to Unemployment Insurance programs;
  • GDOL will accelerate the appeals process by upgrading its data processing systems.

As reflected in the Agreement, the settlement consists of enhancements and improvements that GDOL already had initiated, some of which have already been completed at the time of the Agreement. GDOL received feedback and suggestions from Plaintiffs which have been incorporated in ongoing enhancements and improvements, centering primarily around communication with claimants and processing of appeals.

Adequate funding going forward is crucial for GDOL to continue these enhancements and improvements to systems and communications. The state funding the GDOL relies on comes from the Administrative Assessment it collects from employers. This funding source is set to expire at the end of this year, which will result in a $10 to $20 million loss of funding to the GDOL. Both parties call on the Georgia General Assembly to reinstate the Administrative Assessment as soon as possible.

How Can I Get More Information? A copy of the Settlement Agreement is available on the Georgia Department of Labor website: https://dol.georgia.gov/notice-class-action-settlement-and-hearing. Additional information is also available from the Southern Poverty Law Center at https://www.splcenter.org/settlement-georgia-department-labor-unemploym….

Will Class Members Receive Money from the Settlement? No. There are no monetary awards to any Class Member as part of the Settlement Agreement. This lawsuit was filed to address alleged delays in determinations, delays in payments to those deemed eligible, and delays in appeals. The Settlement Agreement provides for improvements to certain systems at the GDOL to address these alleged delays as quickly as technologically feasible.

Who is the Lawyer for the Class Members? The Court appointed the following attorneys to represent the Class Members as Class Counsel:

Jason J. Carter
Julianna Mesa
Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, LLP
3900 One Atlantic Center
1200 West Peachtree Street, N.W.
Atlanta, Georgia 30309-3417

Miriam Gutman
Jamie Rush
Kristen Anderson
The Southern Poverty Law Center
150 E. Ponce de Leon Ave., Suite 340
Decatur, Georgia 30030

How Do I Tell the Court If I Disagree with the Settlement Agreement? All Class Members have the right to state any objection they may have to the Settlement Agreement and to give reasons why they think the Court should not approve it. If you wish to object to the Settlement Agreement, you may file a written objection as follows:

  • Class Members must file with the Clerk of Court for the Northern District of Georgia any objection to the settlement no later than September 19, 2022.
  • A Class Member who submits an objection must, no later than October 17, 2022, submit a written objection that includes the following information:
    • the name and number of the case: Von King, et al. v. Georgia Department of Labor, et al.; Case No. 1:21-CV-03082;
    • the objector’s name and address;
    • the basis for the objection;
    • all arguments and authority supporting the objection;
    • any evidence supporting the objection;
    • whether the Class Member is represented by an attorney, and if so, the attorney’s name.
    • If the Class Member is represented by Counsel, there are additional requirements that are reflected in the Settlement Agreement.
    • A statement of whether the objector intends to appear at the Final Approval Hearing, either with or without counsel.

Where and When Will the Court Decide Whether to Approve the Settlement Agreement? The Final Approval Hearing will be held before the Honorable J. P. Boulee, United States District Court Judge, in Courtroom 1908 in the Richard B. Russell Federal Building, 75 Ted Turner Drive, SW, Atlanta, GA 30303-3309, on November 8, 2022, at 2:00 p.m. At the hearing, the Court will consider whether the Settlement Agreement is fair, reasonable, and adequate.

NOTICE OF ALTERNATE VIDEO PROCEEDING:
You may attend the Final Approval Hearing set for November 8, 2022, at 2:00 p.m. before Judge Boulee via Zoom video proceeding.
ZOOM CONNECTION INSTRUCTIONS for the final approval hearing scheduled in Courtroom 1908 on November 8, 2022 at 2:00 PM: Link: https://ganduscourts.zoomgov.com/j/1603379358
Meeting ID: 160 337 9358
Passcode: 1908
Audio via phone option: +1 551 285 1373.
You must follow the instructions of the Court for remote proceedings available at http://www.gand.uscourts.gov/public-access-electronic-court-proceedings.

Photographing, recording, or broadcasting of any judicial proceedings, including proceedings held by video teleconferencing or telephone conferencing, is strictly and absolutely prohibited.

In the event that a class member wishes to appear at the Final Approval Hearing, the class member shall file with the Clerk of Court a notice of intention to appear no later than September 19, 2022. No later than September 29, 2022, the class member intending to appear at the hearing shall provide a written statement that indicates all bases for objection, all documentation in support of the objection, all legal authority supporting the objection, and a list of witnesses the member may call to testify.

Do You Have to Come to the Final Approval Hearing If You Filed an Objection? No. All Class Members are welcome to attend the Final Approval Hearing, but no one is required to attend. If you submit an objection in accordance with the procedures described above, the Court will consider it and you are not required to come to Court to talk about it.

How Does Class Counsel Get Paid for Their Work? Class Counsel are representing the Class Members pro bono.

Download this pdf file. King v. DOL Final Settlement Agreement