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Tallahassee residents file lawsuit against DEO in hopes of getting immediate unemployment relief

Posted at 6:34 PM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-29 18:37:59-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — CORRECTION: Story corrected to reflect response from DEO on furloughed employees.

As Floridians continue to struggle with unemployment claims many are turning to legal assistance to try and get some help.

Attorneys Marie Mattox and Gauthier Kitchen say thousands of people have reached out to them. Now, there's a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the company that designed the software, and the governor.

"I had to return diapers for my 2-month-old so that I could purchase dinner," said Jacquez McCoy, one of the plaintiffs.

It was a difficult choice that McCoy never thought he would have to make.

"I've maintained employment," McCoy said. "I'm a hard worker. My last job, I had for five years. I even worked my way up to management."

McCoy was laid off due to COVID-19. He tried to apply for unemployment on March 22.

He finally heard something on April 27, but it was not the news he was expecting.

"When I checked on Monday to see if anything had changed with my eligibility status, I was deemed ineligible," said McCoy

"Unemployment has to give them a reason why they've been denied," Mattox said. "By denying it and not giving them a reason, there's no appellate avenue."

With no where else to turn, McCoy enlisted attorneys Gautier Kitchen and Marie Mattox for help.

"We're trying to get them immediate relief," said Kitchen. "We hope to hold the state and DeLoitte, that's the company responsible for the system, accountable, and we want the legislature to change it in the future."

The attorneys say they've heard from about 4,000 people all trying to get some help from the DEO.

Even DEO employees are looking for work.

"There are people on furlough from DEO right now that are wanting to go back to work to help process these claims, and they're not being called back in," Kitchen said.

DEO Communications Director Tiffany Vause strongly disputed the claim, saying no department employees have been furloughed.

This lawsuit is the last bit of hope for many.

"I feel this way, and so many other Floridians feel this way," said McCoy. "We feel like we've been hung out to dry and punished for something that we didn't do."

The attorneys are expecting to meet with a judge on Friday about settling and getting immediate relief for everyone waiting on a check.