Yesterday I had to attend a mandatory workshop at my local unemployment office. I was not happy when the letter came in the mail notifying me that I had to spend a Monday from 8:45 – 4 pm in a windowless room being taught the ins, outs and intricacies of filling out your weekly claim. Well, let me tell you, I’m glad I went.

So let’s talk hypothetically, because my lecturer Don told us it’s best to always talk in “for instances” for our own sake. For the past few weeks a girl I know has been filling out her form every Sunday. She’s looked for work, and when none was available, she contacted companies that might need her help sometime in the future. She thought all was good in the world, because she isn’t a cheater and hates being dishonest past the point of taking home a Sharpie or two from what used to be her office.

She’d been answering a lot of Craigslist ads, which typically don’t give full disclosure as to company name, address, etc. She had also applied to several jobs within the same company in different weeks. Turns out this is all against the rules with the folks at the unemployment office. Upon finding out that even though she had no clue she was doing anything wrong, these jobs she listed on her weekly form were unintentionally fraudulent.

She didn’t lie…she really applied to these jobs. There were no made up companies. She didn’t apply to be an astronaut or the pope – they were all jobs in her field. But unless each application meets a stringent list of acceptable criteria, they cannot be used towards your claim. Turns out the folks at unemployment have very strict and complex rules that you must follow in order to quality for their dough.

Halfway through the workshop my friend said she felt sick to her stomach…she had been unaware that she’d been breaking rules and couldn’t concentrate on anything but the thought of the unemployment police coming to her door and demanding she pay back every dime she’d received so far. Her lecturer had said time and time again that ignorance was no defense.

So halfway through my workshop yesterday, I thought – why don’t they make this course mandatory before you start the unemployment process? It would be beneficial to know the rules – hell, it may keep folks from bothering to file at all. Yes, it’s that complex and restrictive. Nobody wants to read through pages of garbeldy gook on the boring unemployment website in order to find all the find out all the rules. You figure, if you are doing something wrong, someone will tell you.

As much of a bummer attending this workshop was, it was super informative as to their process. It also made me realize I will most likely be forced to take a job that is way outside my field. Like, light years outside my field. I wish I had the balls to just give freelance a try full time.