A former chief administrative law judge is filing a lawsuit against the director of Iowa Workforce Development, saying he lost his job in retaliation for whistleblowing. During a meeting with reporters, Joe Walsh said IWD Director Theresa Wahlert pressured the judges under his supervision to decide cases in favor of employers, potentially interfering with unemployment appeals cases.
“She’d come to me with a complaint, I’d go back and study the file, I’d bring it to her and say here’s why the judge did what the judge did,” Walsh says. “When she wasn’t happy with me, she’d say ‘well employers don’t know how to respond to this’ and she would say ‘write an employer tip sheet.’ If she didn’t like the law and wanted to teach employers how to get around the law, she wanted these employer tip sheets,” Walsh says.
Wahlert says the lawsuit is an attempt to draw attention away from the elimination of the position due to federal budget cuts. Walsh and his wife lost both their jobs at IWD on the same day. “I was not expecting to get laid off in a budget layoff, because I had seen my budget and I was $250,000 under budget,” Walsh says. “It never even occurred to me that she would try to make that move.”
Wahlert and Governor Branstad denied Walsh’s claims after a state senator requested a Department of Labor investigation into Iowa Workforce Development last month. Branstad called the claims “a partisan political attack,” towards Wahlert, who is one of his appointees.
Wahlert issued a statement that called the lawsuit “frivolous” and said: “It’s unfortunate that once again Mr. Walsh is making baseless accusations that cannot be supported with facts. Now, through this latest attempt, he is wasting the time of Iowa’s court system.”