About the Lawsuit

Below you can find more information about the lawsuit, what and who it covers, copies of the filing, and other information. 

On May 25th, 2021, Judge Henry Hudson, of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, signed an order detailing the steps now required of the VEC to end the backlog of unpaid unemployment insurance claims and to identify and pay Virginians whose benefits were improperly terminated while their cases awaited adjudication. These delays meant that claimants often waited many months, some even since the beginning of the pandemic last year, to receive this financial lifeline after losing their livelihood. Now, the VEC has been ordered to resolve substantially the entire backlog within the next 100 days. 

This order pauses the proposed class action lawsuit filed April 15 by the Legal Aid Justice Center, Legal Aid Works, and the Virginia Poverty Law Center, along with Consumer Litigation Associates, PC, and Kelly Guzzo, PLC, while the VEC works to implement these desperately needed reforms and upgrades.

The order will go into effect immediately and requires the VEC to: 

    • Ensure the elimination of the VEC adjudication backlog before September 6, 2021 (Labor Day). 
    • Accelerate the adjudication of claims to 10,000 cases weekly by July 1, 2021, and 20,000 cases weekly by August 1, 2021. 
    • Quickly and immediately process adjudications for many applicants who are covered by Pandemic Unemployment benefits but have had to first await adjudication. 
    • Identify and resume payments to those claimants who had been getting benefits but were improperly cut off. 
    • Require state identification and better coordination of various alternate housing, food, and income benefits available to applicants in financial difficulty. 
    • Subject the VEC’s new performance standards and deadlines to judicial supervision and require weekly information sharing to make that possible.  

Getting to this point took the effort of countless Virginians who reached out to our organizations and other legal aid organizations; to our Pro Bono partners that helped bring this litigation; to other service organizations across the state; to their elected officials; to the VEC; and to the Governor—demanding change. We thank the named plaintiffs in this lawsuit for stepping forward to help so many others. We are grateful to see the Governor and VEC acknowledge the magnitude of these issues and recognize that patience is no longer an option for Virginians who have been waiting months for a chance at getting unemployment benefits to keep their families afloat. Lastly, we give special recognition to Judge Henry Hudson for so quickly acting to demand immediate improvements by the VEC.  

While this order is a significant step towards fixing a broken system, it does not address every issue identified by those who have contacted us seeking help. And while the timeline for relief provided is as aggressive as possible, we recognize that many Virginians are hurting right now. Our hope is that these measures bring relief as quickly as possible to those who continue to struggle to access the unemployment benefits they so desperately need.  

You can read the order here.

If the Virginia Employment Commission follows the court’s order, hundreds of thousands of Virginians should get relief within the next few months. For example, for those waiting for deputy adjudications, the VEC has been ordered to issue at least 10,000 adjudications per week by July 1, and at least 20,000 per week by August 1. VEC has also been ordered to effectively eliminate the backlog of claims waiting for deputy adjudication by Labor Day. We will be getting reports, and we will follow their progress.

In the meantime, if you need assistance with your individual claim, your local legal aid office may be able to provide information and support. For more information, click here. (The Legal Aid Justice Center is unable to provide individual representation or assistance at this time, because our resources are focused on systemic change.)

We would still appreciate hearing your stories. Your stories helped us to identify the systemic issues that we challenged in this lawsuit, and we know that there are more problems with the VEC that should be addressed. We would also like your help in checking the VEC’s progress in meeting their obligations under the court’s order.  

Cox, et al. v. Hess is a case we plan to ask a judge to approve as a class action.  This case seeks to fix two problems shared by people seeking unemployment benefits from the Virginia Employment Commission (“VEC”):

  • Continued claims class” Some people were getting unemployment (including regular UI, PUA, or another related program).  Then, their benefits were cut off by the VEC without any notice or hearing before a VEC deputy, because of some kind of “issue” on their claim.  (Most often, this issue is about how their job ended, or whether they refused a job offer.)  Starting in December 2020, the VEC restored benefits to some of these people.  However, there are still many people who are still waiting for their benefits to get restored.
  • Delay class” Some people applied for unemployment (including regular UI, PUA, or another related program), and have not gotten benefits or even a decision denying benefits.  They are waiting long periods of time for a VEC deputy to review their application for benefits because of some kind of “issue” on their claim.           

A class action lawsuit is a case that seeks to fix a legal problem shared by a group of people (the class) by filing a single case. In most cases, it is a more efficient way of fixing the problem than by filing several lawsuits over the same problem. Named plaintiffs are people who share their experience as examples of the problem experienced by the group. A judge must approve the case to become a class action.

This case is based on due process claims under the Constitution; a federal law that requires payment of unemployment benefits “when due”; and a Virginia law that requires that applications for unemployment be “promptly” evaluated by a deputy.

This case asks the court to require that the VEC restore benefits to “continued claims class” members, and that the VEC promptly examine and decide (adjudicate) the claims of “delay class” members  

You do not need to sign up to participate. People who are part of either or both classes do not need to sign up or “opt in” to the case. If the court agrees with us that the case should be a class action, people will automatically be covered by whatever the court decides.

See here if you are covered by the classes. 

Although you don’t need to sign up, we want to hear from people who want to share their stories about Virginia’s unemployment system.  (We especially want to hear from people who may be members of the “continued claims” or “delay” classes.)   Your stories will help us better understand what is happening, and fight for change. Please click here to share your story. 

While our lawsuit addresses two major problems people are having with VEC, we are aware that people are struggling with many other problems with the VEC regarding their unemployment insurance claims. The Legal Aid Justice Center is unable to provide individual representation or assistance at this time as our resources are focused on systemic change. Your local legal aid office may be able to provide more information and support for your issue. You can look up your local legal aid office here.

We would like to hear your story to help track issues with the VEC that we may not be aware of. If you are interested in contributing, please fill out the form here.

ARE YOU A MEMBER OF ONE OF THE CLASSES THAT PLAINTIFFS SEEK TO CERTIFY IN THIS CASE?

We are asking the court to approve two classes in this case.  Answer the questions below to find out if you are part of one of the two classes.


Delay Class

  • Did you file a claim for unemployment benefits* with the VEC on or after February 1, 2020?
  • Did more than 21 days pass after you filed your claim, without you receiving benefits or an appealable decision from a VEC deputy denying your benefit claim?

(If you answered “yes” to each of these questions, you are a member of the delay class.)

Continued Claims Class

  • Did you file a claim for unemployment benefits* with the VEC on or after February 1, 2020?
  • Did you receive one or more benefit payments from the VEC, on this claim?
  • Did your benefits stop without an appealable decision from a VEC deputy denying your benefit claim?
  • Are you still waiting for some or all of the benefits that were withheld from you?

(If you answered “yes” to each of these questions, you are a member of the continued claims class.)

* “Unemployment benefits” includes regular unemployment insurance or unemployment-type benefits associated with the pandemic (PUA, PEUC, etc.).

If you are a member of one of these classes, we’d like to hear your story. Please submit your story here

Lawsuit Documents

While our offices remain closed to walk-ins, we're still here to help. Contact Us