Overpayment Defense Attorney (Unemployment Compensation Unit)

 
Overpayment Defense Attorney, Unemployment Compensation Unit: Full-Time Position
Anticipated start date: September 2020
Current location:  Remote until at least Jan. 1, 2021
Hiring timeframe:  Rolling, final application deadline of September 1, 2020
Application requirements: Cover letter, resume, references, and a five-page legal-writing writing sample

 

Overview: The staff attorney will serve primarily as a case advocate and litigator.  This position focuses on defending against the overpayment decisions the government will issue following the COVID-19 crisis. While the influx of additional funds and programs for unemployment benefits during the pandemic has helped stabilize millions of families; the confusion around and technology problems with the programs will result in thousands of overpayment assessments.  Many of these overpayments will be incorrectly assessed as "fraud."  Based on the Unit's experience with overpayments following the last recession, there is a need for an attorney who will provide outreach and education about overpayments, identify trends in overpayment assessments, and work with the Unit on media and advocacy around these issues.

Background: 

Philadelphia Legal Assistance (“PLA”) is the federally funded civil legal aid provider for Philadelphia’s indigent community, providing high-volume, high-quality legal services including community education, advice, referral, pro se assistance, and representation at administrative hearings as well as at all levels of state and federal courts in the areas of basic human needs: family safety, health, income maintenance, and home preservation.  PLA has been working remotely since March 16 due to the Covid19 crisis and has provided staff with all the necessary resources to continue serving clients.

The Unemployment Compensation Unit is a national leader in unemployment compensation litigation and advocacy.  They have been on the forefront of the worker response to the Covid19 crisis in Pennsylvania and work closely together as a team, even virtually!  The Unit has coordinated other legal services organizations, community groups, and local officials across the state to provide resources and information to workers who have lost their jobs or income due to Covid19.  As the law and policy around unemployment benefits changes constantly in this new environment, the unit is looking for a staff attorney who is willing and able to quickly adapt to new challenges.

Unemployment compensation is a vital social safety net that provides temporary income replacement to workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.  The Unit typically represents over 600 clients a year through counsel and advice, representation at administrative hearings, and briefing in administrative appeals. However, due to the current crisis, we expect that number to at least double. 

Over the last several years, unit attorneys have filed over 25 impact cases in Pennsylvania appellate courts, appearing before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and Commonwealth Court.  As the fallout of Covid19 makes its way through the administrative appeal system, the unit expects to see an increase in these cases as we explore new legal issues.

PLA also strives to have a larger impact on our clients’ lives through our advanced use of data collection and analysis.  We use this information to inform our advocacy with the PA Department of Labor and Industry and to continuously improve our outreach and community education efforts.   

Responsibilities:

The staff attorney will serve primarily as a case advocate and litigator.  This position focuses on defending against the overpayment decisions the government will issue following the COVID-19 crisis. While the influx of additional funds and programs for unemployment benefits during the pandemic has helped stabilize millions of families; the confusion around and technology problems with the programs will result in thousands of overpayment assessments.  Many of these overpayments will be incorrectly assessed as "fraud."  Based on the Unit's experience with overpayments following the last recession, there is a need for an attorney who will provide outreach and education about overpayments, identify trends in overpayment assessments, and work with the Unit on media and advocacy around these issues.

As a case advocate, the staff attorney will provide legal advice and represent clients in administrative hearings that involve the presentation of evidence and the direct and cross examinations of witnesses.  Many cases will also include drafting and filing administrative briefs with the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review.  The staff attorney also will be expected to identify potential impact cases for affirmative litigation around overpayments and represent clients in direct appeals to Pennsylvania appellate courts.  

This attorney will also be responsible for working with local and national coalitions on issues related  to fraud detection, predictive analytics, and the use of artificial intelligence in unemployment insurance and public benefit systems.

Qualifications:   

Law degree and admission to a PA Bar, or a willingness to take the PA bar exam (when available).  Candidates of all levels will be considered. Commitment to and passion for workers’ rights and employment issues will be looked upon with favor.  Strong public speaking and writing skills required.  Prior experience supervising other staff or law students preferred.  Spanish fluency is required. 

The current 6 person unit works closely together and prioritizes teamwork.  Attorneys who work well in teams and appreciate a family-like atmosphere will be a good fit for the unit.  Driven and task-oriented self-starters preferred.  

Prior work experience at a public interest law firm or in the area of employment law preferred.  

Salary and Benefits:

Salary commensurate with experience and comparable to other public interest salaries. PLA provides excellent benefits including fully paid medical for employees and their dependents, a 403B retirement plan, and generous paid leave. 

Application Process:

Philadelphia Legal Assistance (PLA) is an equal opportunity employer. PLA values a diverse work environment and strongly encourages women, people of color, people who identify as LGBTQ, people with disabilities, people who have experienced poverty or homelessness, and people who have had prior contact with the juvenile, criminal, or child welfare systems to apply. PLA invites all applicants to include in their cover letter a statement about how your unique background and/or experiences might contribute to the diversity, cultural vitality, and perspective of our staff and legal services practice.

Send cover letter, resume, references, and five page writing sample, preferably in one PDF document, to work@philalegal.org.
Application deadline is September 1, 2020.  Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis, and the position will remain open until filled.