Opinion Columns & Blogs

The task of finding employment

By the time you read this, I could be homeless — or worse, if that’s possible.

In March 2017, I left my job after 16 years on doctors’ orders. Now I’m running out of friends to borrow from after exhausting my savings on medical bills, legal expenses and more.

Psychologists say job loss is equal to having a spouse or child die.

Salary.com notes a 35-year-old can take 14 weeks to find a job. Add 20 percent every 10 years, so at age 61, I’m looking at least 24 weeks. Unemployment benefits last 13 weeks — if you get it.

While nobody owes me a job, I think I’m owed the courtesy of a human reading my resume. CareerBuilder.com reports over 60 percent of resumes are “read” by computers to tally “keywords.” If the computer reads enough keywords, you’re interviewed; otherwise, qualifications don’t matter.

When you apply for unemployment, you deal with KansasWorks, under the Department of Commerce, and Unemployment Insurance, under the Department of Labor — another two government agencies that don’t talk to each other.

A graduate school textbook said, “If the Department of Transportation had existed in the 1880s, there would be a division today devoted to horse transport.” Meet KansasWorks.

When I graduated from Kansas State University in 1979, 7 percent of Americans had degrees. That’s now 39 percent; 59 percent have at least three hours. To KansasWorks, a doctorate equals a sixth-grade education.

Your first step is to fill out the “skills assessment,” a 30-question word association:

Mechanical skills: “I can get out of a truck.”

Customer service: “I can manage 10 children in a daycare.”

Construction: “I can hang a picture.”

Science: “I can water my plants.”

This is part of “my re-employment plan.” KansasWorks claims those filling out a plan find a job twice as fast of those who don’t. I filled one out last year. It took me 26 weeks to find a job. Does that mean if I hadn’t, it would have taken 52 weeks?

And Gov. Jeff Colyer wants to double down on this.

Kansas is 11th in median age, but 46th in protecting older workers. You have six months to file a claim with the state human rights commission but only 60 days with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The state requires you apply for at least three jobs weekly. Job applications ask if you have a disability. When I answer “yes,” the employer is supposed to ask what accommodations I require. But nobody asks. Nobody interviews. That’s illegal on its face, but with attorneys wanting $20,000 for a case, why not break the law?

I eventually got another job. Management said I could move around in my station. They apparently thought they could overrule two board-certified cardiologists.

My graduate coursework included personnel administration, so when I’m advised that federal laws do not apply during the first 90 days, I need to see case law. Why would I get dirty looks for asking?

This validates studies estimating at least 6 percent of terminations are illegal. Add a Brookings study showing a 1 percent rise in unemployment benefits increases welfare claims by 2 percent, and Kaiser indicating a similar 1.5 percent rise in Medicaid claims, and that’s $38 million Kansas taxpayers wouldn’t be spending if existing laws were enforced.

I lost my job in January, but wasn’t eligible for unemployment until May. I can’t get welfare because I’m a single male, nor Medicaid because “there are no children in my home.” Am I supposed to kidnap a kid to get health insurance?

I get food assistance, but food doesn’t pay rent, buy gas or do laundry. Buying food in exchange for cash is a violation of federal law.

COBRA health insurance allowed me to keep my insurance, but $530 a month takes its toll.

I lost my health insurance in September. A $4 bottle of Xarelto suddenly becomes $440.

Strange thing about Xarelto — if you have health insurance, the manufacturer will cover the deductibles and copays. But if you don’t have coverage, you get 10 pills a year.

If you really need to be seen, state law says you have to be seen in a hospital emergency room— but that doesn’t stop them from sending you the bill and trying to collect on it.

When I first moved here, I went to World Impact Clinic. Now, they’re only available one hour a month. Everywhere else wants written proof of income.

How do you get written proof of nothing? One clinic suggested I get letters from everyone who loaned me money. Over five months, that’s nearly 100 people nationwide.

R.J. Dickens was a former news director at KCTU-TV for more than 20 years.