DEO Documents Reveal How Call Takers Are Told to Handle Claimants

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People out of work throughout Florida are frustrated by the ongoing problems with the state's system to file for unemployment.

And the call-takers fielding calls are frustrated too.

"All of us just want to be able to get it done, get them on their way and get their claims submitted and get them paid," one call-taker told NBC 6 Responds. "It's definitely the DEO not providing resources needed to get the job done."

"I could only work four-hour shifts," another call taker tearfully told NBC affiliate First Coast News in Jacksonville. "Because it was so hard. It was so sad. And I couldn't do anything to really help them. We were just someone to answer the phones for them and to tell people to wait. I felt like a puppet."

NBC 6 obtained what the call takers call pre-shift notes that reveal how they are instructed to handle unemployment claimants who finally get through on the phone.

The documents remind them that supervisors are listening — and people who stray from instructions could be terminated.

A call-taker told NBC 6 that workers are also reprimanded for helping users trying to fix issues with a submit button.

The documents tell them they can’t actually address specific and unique claim issues. They are supposed to refer individuals to another number.

"I think, unfortunately, the system seems to be working as designed," the call-taker told NBC 6. "Like they don't want it to be easy for people."

We showed the documents to Senator Jason Pizzo.

"This is sort of analogous to when you’re at a restaurant and your table is not ready," said Sen. Pizzo. "You can have a seat at the bar and have some nuts at the bar while you’re waiting for your meal."

Pizzo says the documents confirm what he's been hearing.

"There have been rumors of this for some time now," he said. "When people are actually going through and getting somebody on the phone, I think there was a bit of artificial euphoria."

NBC 6 also uncovered that DEO call takers can’t refer to technical problems as “glitches." They're instead told to say, "the system is processing payments and is unavailable" or "improvements are being made to the system at this time."

"It's pretty oxymoronic to say, the real story is, it's not working, so tell them we're making it better, it goes against logic," Pizzo said.

The state of Florida has spent $100 million to expand server capacity and hired thousands of workers to take calls. Still, according to the state’s own data, more than half of those seeking benefits haven't been paid out.

In response, the DEO said call takers are generally trained on CONNECT and are also trained to answer the most common questions.

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