Wall Street loves it when a company lays off workers. To them, it doesn't mean the company is in financial trouble, it means the company obviously hired more people than it needed and is clearing out the "deadwood". They call it getting "lean and mean" and they reward companies who do it by paying more for that company's stock, which makes the executives and investors richer.
Layoffs would make execs and invests even richer than they do now if there was just some way to avoid paying those pesky unemployment insurance fees. If those damn lazy bastards they just got rid of couldn't sit around on their fat asses enjoying the easy life on the company's dime, then the company could put that money where it naturally belongs - in the pockets of its execs and invests, not paying the rents for the trashy little apartments all those bums live in. But it's such a time-consuming business, stealing thousands of penny-ante unemployment claims, that it's almost not worth the effort.
With a client list that reads like a roster of Fortune 500 firms, a little-known company with an odd name, the Talx Corporation, has come to dominate a thriving industry: helping employers process - and fight - unemployment claims.
Talx, which emerged from obscurity over the last eight years, says it handles more than 30 percent of the nation's requests for jobless benefits. Pledging to save employers money in part by contesting claims, Talx helps them decide which applications to resist and how to mount effective appeals.
The work has made Talx a boom business in a bust economy, but critics say the company has undermined a crucial safety net. Officials in a number of states have called Talx a chronic source of error and delay. Advocates for the unemployed say the company seeks to keep jobless workers from collecting benefits.
And, as with many such endeavors, they succeed far more often than they fail simply by the application of the one advantage they've got over the workers they make their profit impoverishing: money. They can afford to game the system. In fact, that's their business. It's what clients hire them to do.
"Talx often files appeals regardless of merits," said Jonathan P. Baird, a lawyer at New Hampshire Legal Assistance. "It's sort of a war of attrition. If you appeal a certain percentage of cases, there are going to be those workers who give up."
When fewer former workers get aid, a company pays lower unemployment taxes.
Wisconsin and Iowa passed laws to curtail procedural abuses that officials said were common in cases handled by Talx. Connecticut fined Talx...and demanded an end to baseless appeals. New York, without naming Talx, instructed the Labor Department staff to side with workers in cases that simply pit their word against those of agents for employers.
Advocates for the unemployed cite cases like that of Gerald Grenier, 47, who spent four years as a night janitor at a New Hampshire Wal-Mart and was fired for pocketing several dollars in coins from a vending machine. Mr. Grenier, who is mentally disabled, told Wal-Mart he forgot to turn in the change. Talx, representing Wal-Mart, accused him of misconduct and fought his unemployment claim.
After Mr. Grenier waited three months for a hearing, Wal-Mart did not appear. A Talx agent joined by phone, then seemingly hung up as Mr. Grenier testified. The hearing officer redialed and left an unanswered message on the agent's voice mail. The officer called Mr. Grenier "completely credible" and granted him benefits.
Talx appealed, claiming that the officer had denied the agent's request to let Wal-Mart testify by phone. (A recording of the hearing contains no such request.) Mr. Grenier won the appeal, but by then he had lost his apartment and moved in with his sister.
A win all around, I'd say. By the by, this is a growth industry. Though there are no figures available on what Talx saves its clients every year by preventing laid off employees from collecting money for food, heat, and rent, in this piss-poor economy they're doing just fine. In fact, they're hiring.
So if you're struggling to find a job - and who isn't? - consider applying for one with Talx. Then you can make money taking the unemployment that kept you going away from other people in the same situation you were just in. But at least you'll be working, and you might as well get used to it. For the plutonomy we're living in, ripping off your fellow beings are the only kinds of jobs that won't be in short supply.
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