Nurse appeals unemployment benefit denial

Investigates

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — This week, KELOLAND Investigates has brought you cases of unemployment payments being held up for a number of issues. After our story aired Thursday night, one of the people who was waiting weeks for her payment, Jen Jones, finally got it.

Currently the South Dakota Department of Labor has 350 appeals waiting to be heard by an administrative law judge. Usually the case is a disagreement over the reason why employment ended between the employee and employer. Appeal hearings are now being scheduled six weeks out.

A Dakota Dunes nurse says she lost her job the day schools shut down due to the pandemic and she stayed home with her children. Rebecca Schmitt was shocked to find her claim denied.

Rebecca Schmitt with her three children

“My whole goal in life is to have a job to be able to support my children financially, on my own,” Schmitt said.

Schmitt was doing just that as a single mom of three until the pandemic hit.

“The Sioux City community schools told us the night before that they were shutting down,” Schmitt said.

She told her supervisor she would have to stay home until she could find child care. That very same day, she got a call from the CNOS medical clinic.

“They said, ‘Effective today, you will be terminated from CNOS,’ and I said, ‘Can I ask why?’ She said I was to call a patient back on that Monday, but I couldn’t get into work to get my obligations done,” Schmitt said.

Schmitt filed for unemployment and her benefits were determined, but then more than a month later came a denial. CNOS told the Department of Labor that Schmitt “was let go for insubordination and attitude at work.”

“‘You are denied unemployment due to misconduct.’ And I said, ‘How can this be? I’m a mother of three. The school shut down. I was terminated the day the school shut down. How can this be?'” Schmitt said

Schmitt appealed the decision with the South Dakota Department of Labor in May. In June, Schmitt took part in a three-hour hearing. CNOS produced a performance improvement plan on Schmitt dated in January that said she had refused to sign.

Schmitt claims she never saw the document.

The administrative law judge ruled in her former employer’s favor, saying that the “Employer discharged employee for work-connect misconduct as defined by law,” and that “Employer’s experience rating account is exempt from charge,” meaning CNOS’s unemployment taxes wouldn’t go up.

I really don’t want to proceed with a wrongful termination suit. I would really like to just get the money I deserve for unemployment, whether that be Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, so I can get back to work and get back on with my life and my children.

Rebecca Schmitt, RN who was terminated and denied unemployment

Schmitt has had to rely on the community action agency for help with rent and utilities. She also is applying for nursing jobs across the country.

The clinic, CNOS, says it won’t comment on confidential personnel matters.

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