Tortious Interference with the Expectancy of Entitlement Benefits
This Note proposes a new tort to address employers’ and their agents’ increasing abuse of the Unemployment Insurance appeals process, which interferes with employees’ expectancy of entitlement benefits. Though existing state Unemployment Compensation statutes sanction both unemployed workers claiming benefits and employers for making fraudulent statements, these provisions approach the issue of fraud too narrowly to combat this growing problem. Meanwhile, no existing remedy properly compensates victims of this sort of abuse, adequately deters abusive behavior by scaling the penalty to the harm, and is accessible to economically disadvantaged plaintiffs. As well as providing an analysis of the specific problem of abuse of the appeals process in the Unemployment Compensation arena, this Note also aspires to provide the framework for a compelling legal argument that such abuse should trigger tort liability in the hopes of easing the work of any public interest attorney interested in bringing such a suit. Although this Note focuses on Unemployment Insurance claims, the principles discussed are generally applicable to a variety of other entitlement benefit claims. Part I identifies the employer behavior that presents the need for a remedy in tort. Part II articulates the criteria for an adequate remedy. Part III examines potential legal remedies to the problem of abusive appeals by employers during the claim and appeals process and finds them inadequate to protect the pressing economic interests of claimants and society. Part IV proposes the recognition of a new tort to fill this gap, and details both the grounds for liability and the computation of damages flowing from this form of liability.