United StatesNevada

Judge orders that gig workers should receive some unemployment benefits

In this March 17, 2020, file photo, people wait in line for help with unemployment benefits at the One-Stop Career Center in Las Vegas. A Nevada judge says the state unemployment benefits office has to begin paying pandemic relief benefits to out-of-work gig and independent workers who haven’t completely stopped working and were cut off from receiving payments. 

(The Center Square) – A Nevada judge says that the state’s unemployment benefits office must start paying pandemic relief benefits for gig workers and self-employed people who have completely stopped working or receiving paychecks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

District Court Judge Barry Breslow ruled Monday that these workers are entitled to some benefits available by the pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) payments program.

An attorney representing a class of nine plaintiffs, on behalf of a group of nearly 190,000 people, said that payments for self-employed people will begin in the coming weeks, according to a Las Vegas Review-Journal report. Under Breslow’s order, about 30,000 people will be immediately impacted.

Breslow presided over a virtual hearing that was held on Zoom. The judge said that the court doesn’t intend to hold the state of Nevada in contempt for failing to fulfill the order. Rather, he said that he expects that “doing nothing in response to the order … would be a problem” while additionally noting that the court doesn’t anticipate “anybody with knowingly [violating] the court’s order.”

The state Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation, according to Breslow, must offer payments to applicants of the PUA program unless the claimants are excessive or if there is evidence of fraud. The state cannot halt payments outside of reasons outlined by the court or without the claimant beneficiary getting a chance to respond and arbitrate the state’s denial explanation for the halt in payments.

Labor attorney Mark R. Thierman initially filed the class-action lawsuit in May, accusing the state of Nevada of failing to deliver on immediate payouts for pending benefits claims through the PUA program for workers who are self-employed.

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