Temp Job Could Cost You Unemployment Benefits

Contract Says Workers Should Notify Agency When They Finish Assignment

With Colorado's unemployment rate hovering in the 7 percent range, thousands of people have been turning to temp jobs to try to make ends meet.

But before you sign on with a temp agency, make sure you read the fine print. One missed phone call can end up costing you thousands of dollars.

Pam Hertzog learned a costly lesson after taking a job with a temp agency.

"I netted $571.08 for that five and a half days of work. And I'm supposed to pay back $3,591," Hertzog said.

Hertzog was ordered to repay nine weeks of unemployment benefits because she waited too long to call her temp agency when her assignment was complete.

"I am an experienced person -- (I have) a masters degree in communication. I'm not a slouch when it comes to communication. I am a person who reads the documents," Hertzog said.

Those documents, about eight to 10 pages, are part of a standard contract required by all temp agencies.

"(They say), 'Here. Sign here. Sign here.' All this paper goes across the desk," Hertzog said.

In that shuffle, Hertzog overlooked a key phrase that can have serious consequences.

In the contract it says employees must notify the agency, in this case Corestaff, that they are available within 24 hours of completing an assignment and that "failure to do so may be considered a voluntary quit and may result in the loss of unemployment benefits."

That's because generally speaking, if you quit a job -- even a temporary one -- you give up your right to collect unemployment.

Hertzog said employees at Corestaff never pointed out the clause or explained it.

"Not the details, not the ramifications that I've experienced and that's why I wanted to share it with other people," Hertzog said.

"The requirement to contact us within 24 hours is in our employment contract because it's required by the state of Colorado," said Sue Holub, vice president of marketing for Corestaff.

Corestaff said its employees are trained to mention the clause, they put it in the contract and print it on the person's pay stubs.

"Is there a possibility the person at Corestaff just forgot?" Call7 Investigator Theresa Marchetta asked.

"No, that's not a possibility," Holub said.

"It's a simple mistake and that's basically what we're considering it -- a simple mistake on her part," said Bill Beveridge, with the Department of Labor and Employment.

"But it cost her her benefits," Marchetta said.

"Yes it did because that is according to statute," Beveridge said.

"Is it fair?" Marchetta asked.

"I can't comment on fair. It is according to statute. 'Is it fair I have to pay income tax?' I can't comment on that," Beveridge said.

The Department of Labor, which approves requests for unemployment benefits, pursued action against Hertzog to collect the money it says she received after she unintentionally quit.

"If you apply for benefits, federal or state benefits for which you aren't entitled, you need to pay that money back," Beveridge said.

"And she wasn't entitled because she didn't make a phone call to her agency?" Marchetta asked.

"No. No. Because she failed to report and accept another job assignment …" Beveridge said.

Hertzog hopes she never has to rely on temp work again.

"It's important for you to have all those records because really the agencies they make it sound like they're on your side, to help you with employment. I have found they're not on my side," Hertzog said.

Hertzog did get a job nine weeks ago as a new patient coordinator.

It's important to note she did not appeal the department of labor's ruling against her.

If you're ever in a similar situation the option to appeal and attempt to regain your benefits is there.

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