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Blogger Loses Unemployment Check Because of Ads 554

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the time-for-an-injection-of-common-sense dept.
Techdirt is reporting that one unfortunate, unemployed New York lawyer recently had her unemployment benefits greatly reduced because of the incredible $1/day she was earning via ads on her blog. "The whole thing sounds like a bureaucratic nightmare, with NY State asking her to get a form from her new 'employer' who didn't exist. Then NY Department of Labor started giving her all sorts of contradicting information, and eventually an 'investigation' into her 'business' — during which time her unemployment benefits were stopped entirely. She's now pulled the Google AdSense from her blog (total earned over the life of the blog $238.75)."
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Blogger Loses Unemployment Check Because of Ads

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  • by GPLDAN (732269) on Monday October 12, 2009 @04:01PM (#29723295)
    ...too incredulous to believe. Especially in New York.
    • nothing new (Score:5, Informative)

      by poptones (653660) on Monday October 12, 2009 @04:13PM (#29723463) Journal

      Back in 2000 I was denied unemployment benefits because I made the mistake of telling the interviewer I had tried to get some contract positions. Never mind that I DIDN'T GET THEM, simply the fact I was now "an independent contractor" meant I was employed.

      Never tell them anything. No, woe si me; I'm unemployed and unemployable, I simply don't know what I am going to do...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nomadic (141991)
      ...too incredulous to believe. Especially in New York.

      Are you kidding?? I'm a lawyer in NY, and the job market here is bad to the point of ridiculousness. Any open position will have hundreds of applicants, and the worst thing is it's probably never going to recover. Too many law schools, too many ignorant law school applicants, and too many law school administrators who are the only ones who benefit from the lawyer explosion.
      • by digitalunity (19107) <digitalunity@yahoo . c om> on Monday October 12, 2009 @04:36PM (#29723865) Homepage

        I'm quite happy to have a world with less lawyers. The profession itself is evidence that the Law is too complex.

        If a law is written in such a fashion that the average citizen cannot understand it, let alone defend themselves in a court with it, liberty is damaged.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by modecx (130548)

          The way I see it, they've done a very good job at creating their own job security, in the same way that civil engineers seem to love placing manholes right in the tire path in roads. (i.e. causing the suspension of the car passing over it to bounce, ultimately tearing up the road down wind of the manhole, creating a job for a civil engineer to oversee rebuilding of said road)

        • by AnotherUsername (966110) on Monday October 12, 2009 @05:07PM (#29724321)

          I'm quite happy to have a world with less lawyers. The profession itself is evidence that the Law is too complex.

          If a law is written in such a fashion that the average citizen cannot understand it, let alone defend themselves in a court with it, liberty is damaged.

          I would imagine that the reason that laws are so complex is due to the fact that too many people have used loopholes to cover up their wrongdoing, and lawmakers have had to react by making laws longer and more drawn out in order to ensure that any possible loopholes are filled. Don't blame the lawmakers. Blame the criminals who forced the lawmakers to make more and more complex laws.

          • by Runaway1956 (1322357) * on Monday October 12, 2009 @05:17PM (#29724487) Homepage Journal

            Ahem. "People" don't find the loopholes. Lawyers find them. If Joe and Margaret Sixpack want to cheat the government out of money, they aren't going to get away with it. They'll be taken to court, where some LAWYER will build some ridiculous defense using some set of loopholes that the Sixpacks would NEVER have thought of.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Mashiki (184564)

              As someone moving into the field of 'law enforcement', allow me to give my own spin. It's the people, not the lawyers who find loopholes. That's why my pocket criminal code is so thick, it reads more like a modern day bible. And my traffic act is nearly 7" thick. It's not the smart people who figure out loopholes, it's the clever ones.

              It is however the lawyers, who in turn successfully or unsuccessfully defend the person on the said charge which cause the law to be expanded to include a new definition.

            • People attempt to use loopholes all the time - the difference between the people and lawyers is that layers tend to be good at it.

              Regarding the need for lawyers - it will always exist, even without such a complex legal system. A lawyer isn't simply about knowing the law, but also presenting a case with confidence and consistency - a professional presence.

              I fight a lot of traffic tickets. Despite knowing quite a bit about the law, I still hand the cases over to a traffic lawyer - I need someone who is capabl

            • Assholes (Score:5, Informative)

              by Archangel Michael (180766) on Monday October 12, 2009 @06:46PM (#29725649) Journal

              I call this the law of Assholes.

              Assholes ruin everything for everyone else. They go searching for ways to be just annoying enough to be an "asshole" but take great care and diligence to make sure that they don't run afoul of any rules/laws that might be in place.

              It doesn't matter where you draw the rules/laws, they are assholes, and will always exploit the current version to perfection.

              Then, somebody comes along and says "There ought to be a law" because of some asshole somewhere. There is no cure for assholes, because they will always exist. And passing ridiculous rules/laws to prevent them from being assholes is stupid as it is pointless.

              I know one asshole, when confronted about being an asshole ("you're ruining it for everyone else"), said "I don't care, I'm just playing by the rules". And when the rules changed because of the asshole, it diminishes us all. They don't care about "everyone else" which is why they are assholes.

              They just need to have their asses kicked.

              • Yep (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday October 12, 2009 @07:31PM (#29726131)

                Had problem with people like this on forums I've run. Habitual line steppers. They want to know right where the line is so they can dance right up to the edge of it. Then they always try to play the victim when yelled at. Making complex rules doesn't work either, they just keep it up. As such, on the forums I've worked on the rules got simplified: Don't be an asshole. I (or the other admins) am the arbiter of what that means. Over all, it works much better since everyone, including assholes, seems to understand it. While there is occasional bitching about vagueness (from assholes), seems to be that adults over all get the idea of what being an asshole is.

                Now I'm not saying such a system would work for the courts, just affirming what the parent is saying that assholes are the problem and that complex rules don't seem to help.

              • Re:Assholes (Score:4, Insightful)

                by apoc.famine (621563) <apoc.famine@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Monday October 12, 2009 @09:04PM (#29727083) Homepage Journal

                That's a partial excuse. The more full excuse is that we decided that the LETTER of the law was more important than the SPIRIT of the law.
                 
                I'm not enough of a legal philosopher to figure out how to fix the problem, but I have hope in some society some day someone does so.

          • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday October 12, 2009 @05:32PM (#29724703)

            I would argue that the correct way to close a loophole is to make the law simpler, not more complicated. It's like the joke someone had when the found the missing link, "As you can clearly see, there are now 2 gaps in the fossil record." Making laws more and more detailed and more and more specific opens them up for abuse because it creates more corner cases, which is where the abuse takes place.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ukyoCE (106879)

            This seems like the exact opposite of what they should be doing. Laws should be as simple as possible, leaving interpretation up to the judge and jury to determine whether a law was broken.

            Perfect example is having a "no texting while driving law". And a "no cell phones without hands-free set" law. And a "no putting on makeup while driving law". And a "no eating hamburgers while driving law". And on, and on.

            The law should just say something brief to the extent of "no distracted driving" that encompasse

            • by AnotherUsername (966110) on Monday October 12, 2009 @06:10PM (#29725181)
              Vague laws like the type you describe are the reason that we have a huge debate over the 2nd Amendment.

              For those who are not familiar with this amendment:

              A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

              Does this mean that everyone has a right to bear arms, or only those within the State Militia(the military, specifically, the National Guard)? One argument says that since everyone was in the State Militia at the time, everyone should be able to bear arms. Another argument says that if someone wants to bear arms, they should join the military. Because the Amendment was so vague, we have this debate now. Granted, at the time, the lawmakers knew what they were wanting to say. However, as people die and the common language adapts and changes, the 'spirit of the law' becomes lost. This is why lawmakers are specific in what the law is meant to do, so that people in the future, and currently, know what the law is and is not forbidding or granting.

              While I agree that getting too specific results in little leeway in court cases where the 'spirit of the law' does not cover this or that, I disagree that laws should be as vague as possible. A law such as 'No distracted driving', to the right court, could mean that a parent with a screaming child in the backseat is breaking the law. Or playing the radio is breaking the law(auditory distraction). Or talking to someone in the passenger is distracted driving.

              I would like to see all the types of distracted driving placed into a single law, with amendments to the law as they are needed. I am not a lawyer, but I would imagine it would make the court system much more efficient, if each 'type of law' had its own specific place, and amendments were added instead of new laws being written.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by nomadic (141991)
                I would like to see all the types of distracted driving placed into a single law, with amendments to the law as they are needed. I am not a lawyer, but I would imagine it would make the court system much more efficient, if each 'type of law' had its own specific place, and amendments were added instead of new laws being written.

                Generally that's what happens. I think if everyone would actually look at their state statutes they'd find the laws really aren't as complicated as some people tend to think.
        • by deoxyribonucleose (993319) on Monday October 12, 2009 @05:10PM (#29724371)
          I am quite happy to have a world with fewer programmers. The profession itself is evidence that computers are too complex.

          If a program is written in such a fashion that the average citizen cannot understand it, let alone fix its bugs, their freedom to tinker is damaged.

          The law is complex, because the world is complex. The alternative to complex law is arbitrary judgements, or the state retreating from adjudicating relationships among citizens and corporations. (OK, some wooly-eyed anarchist is going to salivate at the latter prospect, but personally, I prefer police and judges to arbitration by baseball bats.)
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Thinboy00 (1190815)

            I am quite happy to have a world with fewer programmers. The profession itself is evidence that computers are too complex.

            If a program is written in such a fashion that the average citizen cannot understand it, let alone fix its bugs, their freedom to tinker is damaged.

            The law is complex, because the world is complex. The alternative to complex law is arbitrary judgements, or the state retreating from adjudicating relationships among citizens and corporations. (OK, some wooly-eyed anarchist is going to salivate at the latter prospect, but personally, I prefer police and judges to arbitration by baseball bats.)

            Who modded that flamebait? It may be controversial and sarcastic, but flamebait it ain't.

          • Most people have no particular obligation, need, or desire to fix programs or write their own. It's a total matter of choice.

            However, everyone is expected to comply with the law, whether they like it or not. It is an obligation, enforced with guns. The law is so complex that it is understood that the average citizen cannot possibly understand most of it -- hence, specialists such as lawyers. At the same time, the average citizen is expected to fully comply with these laws he cannot possibly understand, under threat of severe penalties.

            Perhaps one alternative to complex laws -- at least, ones the average everyday yob is likely to face -- is to clean them up and get judges that actually, you know, make judgements instead of metting out punishment according to what the rule books say. Traffic court is a great example, and one that most people have to tangle with at some point, often over some inane, niggling point of law that most people didn't even know was on the books.

            But judges usually adhere to strict letter instead of the actual spirit, the intent, of the law, and pronounce you guilty and send you off with a fine. The only way out is to hire a lawyer for serious money, go through weeks or months of legal hassle, and maybe get some kind of reduction if you're lucky. It's too easy for judges to mindlessly throw the book at everyone instead of making actual judgement calls like "this person clearly meant no infraction, nothing happened because of it, off you go." Instead we get statutes that fill multiple volumes of books, and bewildered citizens being charged with crimes they didn't even know existed and never meant to violate.
        • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday October 12, 2009 @05:24PM (#29724597) Homepage
          If a law is written in such a fashion that the average citizen cannot understand it, let alone defend themselves in a court with it, liberty is damaged.

          The thing about the law and complexity is it scales. If you're just a regular guy on the street, there isn't THAT much of the law you need to be aware of/understand. If you're a huge company, then yes, there's a lot more you have to be aware of, but you are in the position where you have the resources to do it.

          A lot of the "complexity" people complain about in the law is an attempt to create a system that's objective as possible. It doesn't succeed totally, of course, but without this complexity I think it would be a lot worse.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by T-Bone-T (1048702)

            I concur. I just started a Business Law class and had no clue about one of the primary components of a contract, consideration. Then it got more and more complex, things like "When is an offer considered to be accepted or even valid?" and that is just the basics.

  • Slow news day (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bzzfzz (1542813) on Monday October 12, 2009 @04:02PM (#29723329)
    Somebody explain to me how this is different from someone selling Avon, or selling at the local farmers' market, or moonlighting as a musician at the local dive bar, or any other similar wellspring of unemployment stupidity?
    • Re:Slow news day (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Monday October 12, 2009 @04:10PM (#29723441) Homepage Journal

      So you're saying that you should be denied unemployment for fixing a friend's or family member's PCs on the side? Any hobby that happens to break even or make a small net profit? How about charity work? After all you *could* be getting paid for it, right?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Joe Snipe (224958)

        That was this guy's [oddtodd.com] argument was and he won his fight. Same state even.

  • Is it really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by al0ha (1262684) on Monday October 12, 2009 @04:02PM (#29723341) Journal
    "It's really stunning how various labor departments are simply ill-equipped to handle a modern labor force."

    Hmmm let's see, underfunded government entities are unable to keep up with new technology trends. I would not call that revelation, "Stunning."
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by astar (203020)

      Also consider the possibility that this is an effect of austerity programs. The department may be under a lot of pressure to cut expenditures. A particular reason might be draconian federal audits. I do not keep up on this sort of thing anymore, but I have heard stories that the federal auditors can be real ass-holes. General government stupidity is always a good explanation, but during a Depression, austerity-driven stupidity is also pretty good.

  • pity... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by foodnugget (663749) <eric-slashdot@nosPam.ericfeldman.com> on Monday October 12, 2009 @04:12PM (#29723453)
    Pity the blogger removed the advertising, I reckon traffic is about to skyrocket for a few days...
  • by darjen (879890) on Monday October 12, 2009 @04:16PM (#29723507)

    now that her story is getting some wide coverage.

  • by jcoy42 (412359) on Monday October 12, 2009 @04:21PM (#29723593) Homepage Journal

    And so, after removing the ads from her blog (they weren't really earning much money anyway) slashdot decided to mention it on the front page..

    I bet she's thrilled.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday October 12, 2009 @04:28PM (#29723729) Homepage

    This is the sort of nonsense that drives the American distrust of beaurocrats.

    The plans of well meaning liberal Senators will eventually have to be implemented
    by civil servants with varying degrees of competence and empathy that have no
    interest in being effective or efficient and infact will be rewarded by being as
    inefficient as they can and growing their own personal fiefdom.

    This is best captured by the "spend your budget this year or lose it next year" approach to money.

    • by afidel (530433) on Monday October 12, 2009 @06:04PM (#29725119)
      Do you honestly think an HMO with a profit motive to deny you coverage is any better? I'll take laziness and incompetence over laziness, incompetence and greed any day.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ScentCone (795499)
        Do you honestly think an HMO with a profit motive to deny you coverage is any better?

        Yes, if they're allowed to compete with others offering similar services. It's when they don't have competition that it isn't optimal. So, allow them to compete across statea lines, and watch what happens.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 12, 2009 @04:32PM (#29723797)

    I've been unemployed for about 2 years now. I live in backwater Reno, NV and had worked in the gaming industry. Two strikes against me, I know. I had been in Silicon Valley for many years, but wanted a cheaper/nicer place to live. Its nice here, but if you make more than $100,000/year, they think you're some overpaid wallstreet crook.

    Anyways, during the course of my job hunt I formed an LLC so I could accept 1099 work rather than just FT W2. I add a line to my contact letter that says, "I am available for full-time W2 employment, as well as contract-based 1099 projects." That's it. That's the whole deal.

    Once Nevada found out about this they claim I own and operate a company, and are SUING me for 1 year's back unemployment. Uh, I don't have $12,000 sitting around guys. That's because I'm UNEMPLOYED.

    I'm guessing that the state is just broke, and looking for every excuse they can to deny any benefit they can.

    I one instant I just went from "moderate democrat" to "conservative republican", too. Interesting.

    • by nedlohs (1335013) on Monday October 12, 2009 @09:37PM (#29727329)

      By forming an LLC you did own and operate a company, it's the very definition of it.

      Yes the rules are stupid but those are the rules and they're not exactly hidden. Starting a company or accepting contract work nullifies your unemployment in lots of places.

      The government providing incentives to stay on their teat and not provide for yourself as much as possible is par for the course.

  • by Itninja (937614) on Monday October 12, 2009 @04:38PM (#29723913) Homepage
    A similar thing happened to my Mom a while ago. She was injured on the job and taking L&I pay. With all her spare time I helped her set up a blog. Eventually she put Google ads on it and started raking in the big bucks (to the tune of about $3/month). After a few months of this, L&I got wind of it and claimed that this proved she was no longer injured and therefore entitled to no benefits.

    She fought this decision and (eventually) won by pointing out that, even though her ads were 'making' money, she had never been paid since her ads never equaled $100 or more (as required by Google). If she had ever reached the $100 mark (even if it had taken years) she probably would have been out of luck.

    But in her case, it all worked out well in the end. Her injury was due to and incident of workplace violence where her employer had been warned of the danger multiple times in the past (but did nothing to protect their people). She settled just a few days ago for $500K.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 12, 2009 @04:45PM (#29724037)

    With unemployment and welfare folded into one smooth curve, there're no perverse incentives and we don't have to pay an army of bureaucrats and lawyers to figure out who doesn't deserve assistance.

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