Judge to weigh case on Florida's unemployment problems

A Leon County circuit judge has scheduled a hearing next month to decide whether to toss out a class-action lawsuit that seeks damages because of problems with the state’s unemployment-compensation system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Judge John Cooper has scheduled a hearing Feb. 16 on motions by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and Deloitte Consulting, LLP to dismiss the case, according to court documents.

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Plaintiffs’ attorneys filed a revised lawsuit in November after Cooper dismissed an earlier version in September. In the dismissal, Cooper allowed the plaintiffs to file a revised complaint. The revised version makes a series of allegations and contends, in part, that the department and Deloitte were negligent and breached a fiduciary duty to the plaintiffs, who lost their jobs during the pandemic and faced problems getting unemployment benefits.

The department administers the unemployment program, while Deloitte was a contractor that helped put in place the CONNECT online system, which could not handle a pandemic-caused crush of unemployment applications.

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But attorneys for the Department of Economic Opportunity and Deloitte argue that the lawsuit should be dismissed for several reasons, including that it would violate the constitutional separation of power between the judicial and executive branches of government.