The Miss Jobless Chronicles: An Open Letter to the Department of Labor

Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.

Dear Unemployment People:

How are you? I hope you’re great. Just a quick note to let you know that, with all due respect, you suck big eggs.

Thanks for the measly weekly pittance, it’s barely enough to live on — and, I must say, for an organization that supposedly aims to get unemployed people back to work, you have failed miserably. Ironically, you have totally destroyed my chances at working for my last employer. Let me explain.

In 2009, I wrote copy for a very popular web site — for the sake of anonymity, we’ll call it X. I got a flat-rate assignment from X about twice a month, for $500 a pop. The weeks that I worked, I did not collect benefits from you. I went on to your web site on the Sunday after I worked and clicked “I worked this week.” Just like you told me to.

Now, because you have absolutely no understanding of the freelance process, I confused you royally! It seems you thought the dates on the checks I received were the dates that I worked — when indeed, the dates of my invoices indicated the dates I worked. The dates on the checks were just that: Dates. Because you couldn’t figure out this simple thing, you got your panties all in a bunch and assumed that I lied and “double-dipped”, i.e., worked AND collected unemployment at the same time.

Do you get it? Should I spell it out for you? I think I need to. Let’s say I worked this week on a project for X, and the exact dates I worked were October 18, 19, and 20. I received $500 for those three days. So this Sunday, the 24th, when I logged on to the DOL web site, I indicated that I worked this week. So I would not receive benefits for the week. When I got paid for those three days, though, since payroll departments also suck, the check would be dated for the week it was cut. A week that I DID claim benefits, because I did NOT work. Are you with me? So, to you, it looked like I lied. When I did NOT. There was simply a discrepancy between the dates on my invoices and the dates on my checks.

To make things even more annoying, and embarrassing, every time there was a break in between a project for X, you would send me a notice in the mail asking why X had no more work for me. I would dutifully fill it out, and say I was no longer working for them “because of lack of work.” There was no box to check that said “because there is simply a gap between projects.” It’s called FREELANCE. Then, I would send the form to you, and you would send it on to X — asking if they had more work for me. Because I completed about 20 projects for X in 2009, they received these notices in the mail 20 times. Annoying for them, right? Do you think that this helped my case? No.

So, I get this call form one of your seedy, surly employees early in 2010. I apparently am “under investigation” for “lying” to you. Then, without warning, my benefits stop and I start borrowing money to live. The DOL tells me I have been “under investigation” for a while. I felt like a fucking criminal. Luckily, I had all of my pay stubs and invoices from when I worked. I was ready for them. I even got a letter from X stating that I worked the dates of the INVOICES, not the dates on the CHECKS. Arrrgh. Breathe.

I was “under investigation” for months, while you took your fucking sweet time arranging a hearing for me, at which I could present my case. In the meantime, I was living off hand-outs and credit cards. My finances were in the toilet. Long story short, months later, I was summoned down to the DOL and had my chance to explain and present my case. And I did. Months later, I won. Fuckers.

Now, X won’t talk to me — they won’t return emails or my calls. And who could blame them? They were harassed endlessly for my financial records, and bombarded with phone calls. They must have thought I was a first-rate LIAR. Well, I wasn’t! And X, if you’re reading this, I want more work from you! I loved working for you.

So, ironically, the organization that’s supposed to support my work efforts totally ruined my chances at ever working with X again. Thanks bunches!

Love, Miss Jobless

caitlinotoole.pngCaitlin O’Toole is a New York City-based writer and editor. A native of Washington, D.C., she began her illustrious journalism career as a Washington Post paper girl. She has since written and edited for Sesame Workshop Digital, Star Magazine, The National Enquirer, Glamour,, and Washington’s City Paper. Her work has also been featured on Fox News, ABC, MTV and VH1. She lives in Chelsea with her two cats, Lucy and Ethel. She can be reached for work at her LinkedIn page and Tweets at @MsOToole.