News

Pitt Files Complaint Charging Use of Unmanned Machines Deprives Countless Workers Millions in Income Tax Refunds

September 14, 2015, Royal Oak, Mich. – Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers has participated in the filing of a class-action civil lawsuit against the State of Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA). The lawsuit, filed with the State of Michigan Court of Claims, has been brought on behalf of hundreds of workers who have had their federal and state tax refunds illegally seized by the State. This was a result of the state’s UIA computers, which utilize a highly suspect automated fraud detection program, erroneously flagging a large number of claims as improper. According to the complaint, the use of unmanned machines to illegally seize tax refunds owed to workers is a widespread problem with disastrous consequences. The practice is causing hardships for hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals who depend on receiving their income tax refunds. The lawsuit asks that the plaintiff and all class members be awarded economic damages in the amount equal to their seized tax returns. It also seeks an order declaring the UIA’s practice of automated decision-making illegal and another permanently enjoining UIA from intercepting and seizing income tax refunds. The complaint lays out the illegal nature of these seizures. Without providing notices to claimants stating the grounds for its allegations that they fraudulently received unemployment benefits or of the required 60 days to present evidence to the contrary, the UIA arbitrarily seizes their tax refunds directly from state and federal treasury departments. “In its ongoing efforts to operate more like a for-profit business, the State of Michigan has laid-off scores of UIA workers and installed machines. The State claims the automated processing is superior to actual people in detecting fraudulent claims” said Jennifer Lord, of Royal Oak-based Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiff. According to Lord, UIA’s machines are actually programmed to do the opposite of what a human claims reviewer would do. Upon discovery of a discrepancy in an unemployment claim, the machines automatically determine it to be fraudulent and immediately authorize seizure of any federal and state tax refunds the claimant is owed without providing the required advance notice. Based on public documents and recent media reports of this growing problem, Lord says this is a high-tech nightmare scenario which has already resulted in tens of millions of dollars in tax refunds being improperly seized from thousands of people who’ve done nothing  wrong or illegal. The case has been assigned to the Honorable Cynthia Stephens of the Michigan Court of Appeals serving as trial judge for the Court of Claims.  No hearing date on this case has been set. The full complaint can be viewed here.  

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Cary McGehee presents Champion of Justice Award to Morris Dees at MCHR annual dinner.[/caption] The Michigan Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR) recognized the lifetime efforts of iconic civil rights attorney Morris Dees at its recent annual dinner...

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