Tennessee’s Unemployment Overpayment Ordeal: Workers Confront Unexpected Debt


A hospital employee was astonished to hear that some of her salary had been garnished after receiving a court notice. The Tennessee Labor Department sued her because she received more unemployment benefits than she was entitled to during the epidemic period.

The state argues that Angela Allen was alerted. However, Allen stated that if she had been, she would have repaid the money. She is the second person to contact WATE with the same issue. Allen’s case got to court, but she was unaware, and her salary is now being withheld.

Allen played telephone tag with the state Department of Labor late last week. A salesperson phoned her, and she answered the call, but no one responded to Allen. She wanted to know about this court paperwork. Her salary had been garnished by more than $700, and the money was sent to the state.

Allen stated that she was unaware she had been overpaid in unemployment benefits and that she had received no correspondence from the state since 2020. She works in the surgery department of Tennova North Medical Center. During the pandemic, she and others qualified for jobless benefits.

“My hours got cut because they stopped doing elective surgery,” Allen said. “I worked 20 hours every other week.”

Within a few months, she was back at work full-time. Allen stated that was when she stopped checking her unemployment dashboard.

Three weeks ago, she received a court summons. When the document arrived, she suspected it was a fraud.

“I almost tossed it away. I was thinking, “What is that from?” “When I opened it, I was shocked,” Allen remarked. She discovered it wasn’t a fraud after contacting the Community Health Services payroll department. The Labor Department sent her this statement a few weeks ago. She has been overpaid by $695 between mid-April and early May 2020.

“This is what I should’ve received first. So I contacted them and left a voicemail, since they require it, and stated that you are already garnishing my check,” Allen explained.

Melaney Norris experienced a similar situation. She had to repay the state for assistance she received during the pandemic. She also stated that she did not realize she had been overpaid until she received a letter from the state. Regarding Allen’s overpayment, the state informed WATE that alerts were sent to her dashboard and email account, but she never sought to establish a repayment plan.

“They approved my unemployment claim, and four years later, they overpaid me.” “I just don’t get it,” Allen replied.

The ruling was for $695, but fees of $47 have been added on, making the total amount taken out of her paycheck $742.

During the pandemic four years ago, the Tennessee Labor Department reported that over a million persons submitted jobless claims. The federal government ordered the state to audit each of these claims.

That was a massive job that took several years to complete. When residents applied for unemployment, they were asked how they preferred to communicate. In the two cases we’ve talked about so far, both women said they weren’t told about their overpayment last year or the year before.

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