NC unemployment office wrongfully approves claim on Raleigh business for worker living 150 mi. away

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Raleigh business owner is fed up with the North Carolina Division of Employment Security Commission (NCDES) after fighting for months to prove someone trying to get unemployment benefits, never worked for him.

"There's absolutely no proof of this guy ever working here, and he's not even on my payroll," Jerry Sroka of J&L Landscaping, Inc. said.

The headaches started for Sroka when a man filed for unemployment benefits early in 2021.

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"He's claiming that I laid him off, December 20 of last year," Sroka said.

Sroka insists the man filing for unemployment never worked for his company, which has been in business for 24 years. Plus, if you look at the paperwork from the state, the man filing for benefits doesn't even live in the area; he lives in New Port.

"Newport, North Carolina, 168 miles from my office to his front door, and they are still insisting," Sroka said.

Despite Sroka fighting the claim, NCDES approved benefits for this man. Sroka appealed the case but lost that too.

"Our great unemployment office is insisting that he has worked for us, and he never has."

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Sroka turned to Troubleshooter Diane Wilson. "I need your help," he told Wilson. "I'm doing this because there's a lot of small businesses that are like me that have five or 10 employees that the unemployment (office) is just messing around with."

Wilson got all of the paperwork Sroka shared with her about the case to NCDES representatives and within 24 hours Sroka heard from a DES representative.

"They pretty much said this is our mistake," he said.

A mistake DES explained in a letter to Sroka stating that the 1099 the man provided is actually for a company in Morehead City with the same name, and the claim should have been against that company, not Sroka's.

After months of trying to prove this man never worked for Sroka, his fight with the state is finally over.

"If it wasn't for your quick action and helping us, I would have never gotten to the bottom of this and would have gotten my account charged for this."
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