Within the past year, employees of the Lexington Herald-Leader have twice been required to take a week of unpaid time off. We've all taken pay cuts, too.
I took my first week of furlough in August and my second one in April.
It wasn't all bad. We could file for unemployment benefits for each week off, making up for some of the lost wages.
In August, I filed online for benefits during the week I was off. Got a check a few weeks later. No problem.
In April, the weather was so beautiful and conducive to gardening, I spent my time in my yard and over at my church. It was a very productive time.
When I returned to work, I went online to file for benefits and everything seemed to go as it had before.
That was in April.
I found out in May, and again after an appeal in June, that I had filed three days too late to receive benefits for the week I was furloughed.
Since then I have learned that several of my co-workers had been under the same impression and received the same denial.
If you are unemployed for any reason, please file a claim immediately.
Let me repeat that: File a claim immediately.
Because I waited until the week after my furlough to file, I had failed to follow a rule that says if we don't file within the first week that we are unemployed, the Division of Unemployment Insurance will not pay you for that week, without a good excuse.
Being swept up in the warmth of springtime is not a good excuse.
Not knowing that such a rule existed is not a good excuse.
I realized I had done something wrong when I returned as instructed to the Web site on May 2 to finalize my claim.
The site wanted me to claim the week I returned to work instead of the week I was off. It wouldn't take no for an answer.
Fearing a prison term if I lied and said I was unemployed during the week I actually worked, I stopped the process and decided to go in to the Office of Employment and Training to speak with a human being.
The woman I talked to helped me and we both thought everything would be fine. About two weeks later she called to say I would probably be denied.
Sure enough, I was denied.
Not understanding what was going on, I decided to appeal as the denial letter said I could. I was set up for a phone hearing at 2 p.m., on June 29 with an unemployment insurance referee.
Let me just point out that as nice as the woman at the office was, the referee of my case was the opposite. He was all business, no compassion, very little patience. He had conducted far too many hearings similar to mine.
I tried to point out to him that by the time I would have gotten to the point of reading documents urging me to file a claim within the first week of unemployment, it still would have been too late.
No matter. I was again denied.
Allen Larson, new director of the division of Unemployment Insurance, assured me things have changed since I filed. A new, more user-friendly version of the process has been implemented in the past couple of months, Larson said, to improve communications with employers and claimants.
In cases like mine, he said, the assumption is that when a person is unemployed they will file within that week or shortly thereafter.
I am pleased to learn the process has been simplified, but there is still nothing in place, no public service announcements, no notices given to employers or employees, that the week they file is the week they are eligible to get a check.
In the case of brief unemployment, that window can be the difference between a supplemental check and missing a house payment.
That's why I'm writing this column.
If you are laid off on a Friday, please go in and file the next Monday. If you lose your job on Thursday, go in Friday. The sooner the better.
Don't let the shock of a job loss stop you from going online or into a nearby office to file a claim.
I only missed a week of pay, which in the scheme of things can be worked around. I didn't lose an ounce and my husband was happy to see me bypass a few sales.
But there are people for whom a week with no pay and no supplemental unemployment check can mean the difference between skirting the water and drowning. It was only principle for me.
We all should have that information, clearly defined beforehand.
If the unemployment office can't do that, then I will.