ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia Department of Labor is demanding reimbursement of unemployment benefits from current and former employees of an Atlanta restaurant group, saying the employer made errors in filing unemployment claims.
WXIA-TV reports that the National Employment Service is demanding nearly $28,000 from Kacey Carelson, one of the former employees of Rocket Farm Restaurants. The Atlanta company, led by Chef Ford Fry, operates 11 restaurants in the Atlanta metro area, including four Superica restaurants.
“It’s half my annual salary,” Carelson said. “I can’t live if I repay this. I’m a bit surprised by the whole situation.
Department spokeswoman Kersha Cartwright said errors such as misspellings, incorrect Social Security numbers or incorrect wages could lead to unintended fraud, leading to overpayment of benefits. She did not say how much money the Labor Department demanded from employees at Rocket Farm Restaurants or what error led to the overpayment of benefits. Cartwright said unintentional fraud doesn’t happen often.
“We are in charge of managing state and federal funds,” Cartwright said. “So if funds have gone to the wrong person, we are obligated to recover them.”
The department asked employers to file unemployment claims early in the pandemic, seeking to speed up benefit payments and keep employees on the payroll.
She said the department works with the company and the employees. She said employees could file a waiver to potentially have the debt forgiven.
Carelson, who now works with another restaurant group, said she filed several appeals and sent her waiver, but has yet to receive a response. She also said that Rocket Farm had trouble communicating with former workers.
“It’s intimidating, it’s nerve-wracking. The number of nights I lost sleep, I freaked out about how I’m going to pay that back,” Carelson said. “And if they seize wages as they say. Am I going to jail for fraud? »
Rocket Farm says it has heard from “numerous” employees of overpayment notices and has been asked by the Labor Department for records relating to certain employees for part of 2020. The company said it submitted statements of revised earnings for employees and agreed to pay any results resulting from penalties and interest imposed by the department that resulted from inaccurate wage reporting.
“This has been an extraordinary process during an extraordinary time, and we remain committed to assisting our employees by correcting any inaccurate unemployment submissions,” the company told WXIA-TV.
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