RICHMOND, VA. – The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) has an additional five days to respond to a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of five plaintiffs suing Commissioner Ellen Marie Hess. Senior District Judge Henry Hudson in the Eastern District of Virginia partially upheld the VEC’s motion to extend Wednesday’s filing period.
The deadline originally set for Friday has now been postponed to May 11th.
“In addition, plaintiffs emphasize that the widespread and persistent harm alleged in their complaint demonstrates the prejudice they would suffer from delay and the need for a swift resolution of this case,” wrote Judge Hudson.
Pat Levy-Lavelle of the Legal Aide Justice Center is representing the five plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the VEC.
According to federal law, VEC has three weeks to decide on eligibility for unemployment.
The lawsuit argued that the state failed to do so 95 percent of the time.
Almost all claims last 10 weeks or more, according to the lawyer.
“This case is about months and months of delays by the Virginians who are waiting for performance and suffer badly when they do not come,” Levy-Lavelle said in an interview on Wednesday.
The Commonwealth hired Richmond-based law firm ThompsonMcMullan to represent Commissioner Hess on April 26th.
In the federal court filing filed on Tuesday, they asked the judge an additional 21 days to respond to the lawsuit, on the grounds that the “scope of the dispute is very broad”.
“Although the new attorney says I need time to catch up on this, this is an issue that has been known to the state for six months,” said Levy-Lavelle. “At the beginning of November we sent you a letter with essential facts and legal theories in this case.”
The lawsuit was served on Hess on April 16.
ThompsonMcMullan’s attorneys hadn’t responded to a request for an interview by Wednesday afternoon.
A VEC spokesperson told CBS 6 that he would not comment on any litigation.
CBS 6 asked Virginia Governor Ralph Northam after an economic announcement in Petersburg Tuesday after the complaints.
Northam said the state is bringing in help from other agencies to help clear the backlog.
“I know patience is not a good word, but I would ask these people who are still relying on unemployment control to really keep working with us and we will get in touch with them as soon as possible,” said Northam.