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Senator says Branstad official pressuring judges to rule in favor of employers and against employees in unemployment cases



This news story was published on March 19, 2014.
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Sen. Dotzler

Sen. Dotzler at press conference

DES MOINES – State Senator Bill Dotzler, co-chair of the Joint Economic Development Subcommittee, presented evidence at a Statehouse news conference focusing on the actions of Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert.  Dotzler said the evidence shows that Wahlert is improperly pressuring Administrative Law Judges to rule in favor of employers and against employees in unemployment cases.

“In a legal dispute, everyone should be treated fairly and with respect,” said Dotzler. “That’s not happening.  Branstad political appointee Teresa Wahlert has put herself directly in charge of Administrative Law Judges and is improperly—and I believe illegally—pressuring these judges to rule in favor of employers and against Iowa workers.”

In Iowa Workforce Development, there are federally funded administrative law judges who rule on disputes between employers and employees regarding unemployment claims. Under normal conditions, these judges are overseen by a chief Administrative Law Judge.

Dotzler released a letter he has sent to U.S. Department of Labor that calls on federal investigators to determine if Wahlert is violating federal laws requiring the fair and impartial administration of unemployment insurance benefits. In February, the Department of Labor concluded a similar review of Maine’s system for handling unemployment claims.

In Dotzler’s letter, he listed a number of specific concerns about Director Wahlert’s actions.  They include:

  • Director Wahlert created a hostile work environment for Administrative Law Judges who did not follow her pro-employer, anti-employee philosophy.
  • Director Wahlert, a political appointee, became the direct supervisor of the Administrative Law Judges after eliminating the Chief Administrative Law Judge’s position.
  • Director Wahlert directed the Administrative Law Judges to be involved with “outreach to community and business leaders” and required them to develop “tip sheets” to help employers win cases, actions which would interfere with their ability to impartially judge cases. Wahlert did not require anyone to create similar “tip sheets” to help employees in similar cases.

Dotzler drew attention to a similar case in Maine, where a federal review found that actions by conservative Governor  Paul LePage put fair hearings at risk.  In that case, US Department of Labor Regional Administrator Holly O’Brien wrote that:

 “Under federal law, unemployment compensation appeal hearings must be fair and impartial, both in fact and appearance.  Political interference or undue political influence, even in appearance, can potentially destabilize the appeals process, undermine the credibility of a state’s unemployment compensation program, and generate additional workload which may result in delays in decisions or benefit payments.”

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25 Responses to Senator says Branstad official pressuring judges to rule in favor of employers and against employees in unemployment cases

  1. Laura Reply Report comment

    March 26, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    We have been dealing with this same problem. We are now to the level of the Appeal Board Panel to reverse Administrative Law Judge Bonny Henricksmeyer’s decision, where she ruled against my husband’s unemployment claim, supporting the business that terminated him, yet claiming that he quit. We now have a lawsuit in process for sexual harassment, as well, since the reason he was terminated was because he refused the sexual advances of his supervisor. We are thinking of filing in federal court.

  2. badpontiac Reply Report comment

    March 20, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Hush up and we will pay you lots of money / code of Iowa.

    • LVS Reply Report comment

      March 20, 2014 at 4:37 pm

      @Philly-On second thought you might be on to something there. At the least I think it is a fake name. I tried to google it and nothing came up that was even close. Maybe it our old friend Joel Arthur. He likes to post under different names.

  3. badpontiac Reply Report comment

    March 20, 2014 at 8:50 am

    Does not surprise me a bit – term limits and get rid of the corporate lobbyists that are running our government – socialism.

    • LVS Reply Report comment

      March 20, 2014 at 9:36 am

      @badpontiac-I agree with you on term limits for all politicians. I think we will somehow have to take that decision away from the politicians if we ever want to see it happen.

  4. Maybe Reply Report comment

    March 19, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    he’s not the back stabbing kind it’s just that after they took him up in the spaceship he hasn’t been the same.

  5. LVS Reply Report comment

    March 19, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    @Dick-I am surprised at you. I didn’t think you were the backstabbing kind.

    • LVS Reply Report comment

      March 20, 2014 at 9:02 am

      @Dick-I wasn’t referring to that. I happen to agree with you on that issue. I was referring to your comment about Blodgett. I hate it when people attack someone without knowing first hand what the truth is. If you are dealing with rumor that is wrong.

      • Maybe Reply Report comment

        March 20, 2014 at 11:20 am

        Have you personally seen him doing drugs? If you call him a drugger because of what someone else said then you are a fool, it seems as if there are a lot of fools out there.

      • Maybe Reply Report comment

        March 20, 2014 at 12:50 pm

        I was asking you, you seem to know a lot about Blodgett and I was wondering if it was all first hand information or second hand.

      • LVS Reply Report comment

        March 20, 2014 at 1:04 pm

        @Dick-I have never met Todd Blodgett so I don’t know what he has done and if you haven’t met him neither do you. From what I heard he made a mistake some time ago and paid for it so it should be over and done. I have heard no one say he is a current drugger and there is a big difference with a reformed person. You didn’t answer the question, do you know him or are you dealing with rumors? If so you are a fool and I didn’t think you were, but I have been wrong before,I thought Philly was…

      • LVS Reply Report comment

        March 20, 2014 at 1:20 pm

        @Dick-and just to set the record straight, I am not a Republican and from what I have heard Mr. Blodgett is. I am not like you and do not judge people by their political party. I judge them by their attitude and the way they treat other people. You sure seem to be defensive. Why is that? Are you just putting out a hate filled rant?

      • Mediator Reply Report comment

        March 20, 2014 at 1:32 pm

        LVS, do you know Dick?

      • LVS Reply Report comment

        March 20, 2014 at 1:54 pm

        @Mediator-No, just from on here.

      • Mediator Reply Report comment

        March 20, 2014 at 2:46 pm

        How about you, Maybe, do you know Dick?

      • Philosophus Reply Report comment

        March 20, 2014 at 2:51 pm

        I think Dick Rahlf is probably Iowa Sucks. I’m not sure what happened to IS. I’m assuming he was banned by Marquardt.

      • Maybe Reply Report comment

        March 20, 2014 at 3:13 pm

        No I don’t know any of them that’s why I will not say anything good or bad about them because all I hear is rumors, do you know him?

      • Mediator Reply Report comment

        March 20, 2014 at 3:28 pm

        No, I have no idea. I’m just enjoying getting both of you on record saying you don’t know Dick.

        Just a little fun for the afternoon!

      • Maybe Reply Report comment

        March 20, 2014 at 3:34 pm

        Actually I did think of that before I said no I don’t but it still was alittle funny.

      • LVS Reply Report comment

        March 20, 2014 at 4:32 pm

        @Philly-It might be sucks but the writing style is a little different

      • LVS Reply Report comment

        March 20, 2014 at 6:21 pm

        @Mediator-How about you. Do you know Dick? Do you know Maybe? Do you know me? Just asking. Nothing nasty.

      • Philosophus Reply Report comment

        March 20, 2014 at 6:37 pm

        Imagine if your name was Richard Wiggler. I think there are real people named Richard Wiggler. You can Google them.

      • Mediator Reply Report comment

        March 20, 2014 at 8:39 pm

        I’m not sure how I would know if I did know any of you. I don’t know that I know any of you, how’s that?
        LVS, I don’t think you are actually Elvis, but…

      • Maybe Reply Report comment

        March 20, 2014 at 8:45 pm

        Now that would make sense, you little hound dog you.

      • LVS Reply Report comment

        March 21, 2014 at 8:06 am

        @Mediator-So you don’t know me but you don’t mind calling me names. Real class.