What you need to know about the unemployment insurance program

  • September 21, 2021

A woman who is disabled because of a chronic illness has filed a lawsuit against the state of New Jersey claiming she was illegally excluded from the unemployment compensation program, according to the New Jersey Office of Public Service.

Kimberly Sotelo, who suffers from chronic myeloid leukemia, filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the New York state Department of Labor and Industry and its Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleging that the state denied her benefits because of her health.

Sotelo was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012 and has had surgery to remove tumors and stem cell transplantation, according the suit.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and was first reported by the Associated Press.

“The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSHA) and New Jersey State Department of Workforce Development have unlawfully discriminated against Ms. Sotelo for the duration of her cancer treatment and denied her unemployment benefits because she has cancer,” the suit says.

Soltelo, 51, of Long Beach, California, had been eligible for unemployment compensation since 2013 and has been able to work since 2014 because she was receiving unemployment benefits, according a news release from the office.

In April, the state announced it was going to expand the unemployment benefit eligibility rules to cover those with cancer and other chronic illnesses, according Toensing spokesman Kevin Sullivan.

That would allow for those with a chronic health condition who are disabled to receive unemployment compensation, he said.

The New York State Department Of Labor and Industries (DOLEI) issued a statement about Sotels case saying the agency is “committed to ensuring the well-being of all our employees and has received input from the State and the DOLEI on this issue.

We will continue to work with the State on the best way forward.”

New Jersey is one of 16 states and the District of Columbia that does not allow discrimination in unemployment benefits.