Friday, August 13, 2010

What Florida Wages? First Magnus v. Karen v. DES

I got a voicemail tonight from Rita at Arizona's Department of Economic Security (DES). My weekly claim for unemployment benefits (I stand to get about $40 to $50 this week from the combined state and Federal governments, representing a total of $240 less my earnings) was not processed because of wages earned in the State of Florida. Say what?

The only time in my life that I actually lived in Florida was in 1976 when my mom moved to Cape Canaveral after the divorce. I did not have a job that summer, and haven't visited that state at all since 1993. So I was hard pressed to figure out what the State of Arizona was talking about. Was it the $27 refund against a fraudulent charge on one of my credit cards? Had someone at DES accidentally entered a Florida church called St. Matthew's or St. Michael and All Angels into my electronic file?  Did it have something to do with the First Magnus bankruptcy and lawsuit?


Back in January, I wrote about two pieces of long-awaited mail I had just received. One was a paycheck for $186.72, more than tripling what I had been paid to date for my last two weeks of work at First Magnus Financial Corp in August 2007, leading up to the day the company collapsed. The other was for $706.43 after taxes, in settlement of a class action lawsuit against the company for closing its doors without proper notice to employees. Apparently the Binford Vs. First Magnus Capital settlement check was issued in Florida, and I hadn't noticed. This was the check that DES misinterpreted as 2010 wages earned in the State of Florida. The national headquarters of First Magnus, which was where I worked back in 2007, was at the corner of Fifth and Wilmot in Tucson, directly across the street from St. Michael and All Angels. First Magnus had branch offices all over the country; the class action suit was probably filed by someone from one of its Florida branches.

The First Magnus headquarters in Tucson, April 2007

When I got the voicemail tonight (my cell phone had fallen out of my pocket), I called back and waited on hold for half an hour, which isn't bad by DES standards. The deputy who eventually answered was Rita, the same person who had left the message. Together we worked out what this Florida income was. I explained that it was a settlement for company wrongdoing, not wages for working in Florida. Rita documented all this clearly, and resubmitted my weekly claim, the third attempt to do so.

This was all on my mind, however, and I thought it would make a good blog entry - and besides, it would be good to look up exactly what I received and when. So I started writing this very blog entry, and searching my blog from January for info on that settlement check. (The relevant blog entry is here.)

Black Thursday, August, 2007

It was at about this point that Rita called back. She had sent the claim in with the explanation, and a supervisor was apparently not satisfied. They now are requiring me to write a letter explaining the situation, which I am supposed to fax to them at  602-364-1210. I intend to send them a copy of this blog entry, or some version thereof. That way they have the explanation in detail, and also know that I've gone public about it, for whatever that's worth. I have to wonder whether this is happening to any of the other 500+ former employees of First Magnus in Arizona. I can't be the only one who has had difficulty remaining fully employed since that dark day in 2007.

A local tv news camera crew sets up in front of the FMFC entrance, August 2007

Let me make this as clear as I can, to my readers and especially to DES. I have received two checks this year related to First Magnus Financial Corp, a company I last worked for on August 16th, 2007, the day I and nearly everyone else cleared out our desks. One check, administered through a liquidation trust, was for $186.72, in partial payment of back wages from August 2007. The other check, labeled Binford v. First Magnus Capital Settlement Award, was my portion of a class action settlement in a dispute between former First Magnus employees and one of the corporations related to FMFC, namely First Magnus Capital. (I believe FMC existed mostly to protect certain assets from FMFC creditors.)  Neither check was in payment of wages earned after August 16, 2007, in Florida or anywhere else. The check for $706.43 was not for wages at all. It was in settlement of an action against FMFC for closing its doors without any advance notice to employees.

I've also discovered a possible reason why all this came up this week, just before the three year anniversary of First Magnus's collapse and eight months after the issuing of those two checks. In the unopened mail from this week (which I'm going to take over opening because John hates it so much) is a W-2 for 2008, replacing a 1099 that the First Magnus Liquidating Trust issued instead. The total amount of the wages paid to me in 2008, for which all this paperwork is necessary, and probably including a revised tax return, is $70.83. Like the $186.72, it represents a partial payment of my back wages from early August 2007. They still owe me about $600, but I'm not holding my breath.

I'll let you know whether I get the $40 or $50, or indeed any further unemployment benefits. If I were the paranoid type, I'd think this had something to do with my Tuesday night blog entries. But that's just silly, right?

Further documentation can be found by clicking the relevant search label:



Mike said...

Good luck! I can't imagine how much of a pain this would be. Good thing you have the blog to keep records!

Carly said...

Hi Karen

SHEEEEESH! I can't believe it! Well, for whoever is reading this, I can confirm this is true! Karen and I have been friends since early 2004 and I have been right there as life has taken her on all these twists and turns! So THERE!

Rest assured tonight... IT's TRUE!

Hang in there Karen, and GOOD LUCK!