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Some restaurants workers in Georgia have been told to repay their unemployment benefits after the labor department said their employer filed furlough claims incorrectly

Some current and former staff at Rocket Farm Restaurants (not in photo) have been told to repay some unemployment benefits, WXIA reported.

Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

  • Some staff at a restaurant chain have been told to repay some unemployment benefits, WXIA reported.
  • This includes one former worker told to repay $28,000 for benefits overpayments during the pandemic.
  • The state’s department of labor said their employer filed furlough claims incorrectly in 2020.

A restaurant worker in Georgia has been told to repay $28,000 in unemployment benefits after the labor department said her former employer made a mistake in furlough filings, NBC-affiliate WXIA reported.

The outlet reported that some current and former staff at Atlanta-based Rocket Farm Restaurants, which operates more than a dozen restaurants across Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, and North Carolina, have been told to repay some unemployment benefits.

The state’s department of labor said that this was because their employer filed furlough claims incorrectly in 2020, according to the report.

Kacey Carelson, a former worker at the restaurant group, told WXIA that she’d been told to pay back $27,488 after receiving unemployment benefits for several months in 2020 while on furlough.

“That’s half my year’s salary,” Carelson told the channel. “I can’t live if I pay that back. I’m a little taken aback by the whole situation.”

“It’s intimidating, it’s nerve-wracking,” she added. “The amount of nights I’ve lost sleep, panicked about how I’m going to pay this back.”

Rocket Farm Restaurants told WXIA it was working with affected employees and the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) and was “actively investigating the underlying issues.”

It said it would submit some revised statements of earnings to GDOL “in the very near future” and was providing comprehensive wage information “with the goal of promptly correcting any inaccurate claims submission.”

“This was an extraordinary process during an extraordinary time, and we remain committed to helping our employees by correcting any inaccurate unemployment submission,” Rocket Farm Restaurants told the outlet. “We are aware that corrections will be necessary for a period of time for some employees, and we have already committed to paying any resulting penalties and interest assessed by the Department of Labor that resulted from inaccurate wage reporting.”

Georgia required employers to file the claims on behalf of their staff at the start of the pandemic and has processed more than 3 million claims for unemployment filed by employers in 2020, GDOL spokesperson Kersha Cartwright told WXIA.

But small mistakes in the filings, like a misspelling or an incorrect social-security number, could lead to unintentional fraud and a potential overpayment of unemployment benefits, Cartwright said.

She didn’t tell the channel how much money GDOL had requested from employees at Rocket Farm Restaurants or what mistake had been made in the filings.

Cartwright said that, in the case of unintentional fraud, GDOL worked with both the employer and employees to figure out where the mistake was made, “and we work to find some kind of resolution, which is what we’re doing in this case.” Employees could also file a waiver which would potentially exempt them from repaying benefits to GDOL, she said.

But Carelson told WXIA that she hadn’t yet received a response after filing several appeals and a waiver to GDOL.

“I feel like the Department of Labor is at fault,” Carelson said.

Rocket Farm Restaurants and GDOL did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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