Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question. I am so sorry to hear that the EDD is requesting an overpayment from you.
The first thing an individual in this circumstance would want to do is file a First Level Appeal with the EDD. It sounds as though you may have already begun this process. For information on filing a first level appeal, visit this link: http://www.edd.ca.gov/unemployment/First_Level_Appeal.htm
At the appeal, an individual can contest both the denial of benefits itself as well as the determination that any previously-paid amount must be repaid.
The EDD does NOT require repayment in every circumstance, assuming the overpaid amount was not procured by fraud. However, the EDD does retain discretion to demand repayment of the overpaid amount under certain circumstances.
The code section that governs repayment of benefits is UE Code 1375, et seq. That section states in relevant part:
"Any person who is overpaid any amount of benefits under this
part is liable for the amount overpaid unless any of the following is
(a) (1) The overpayment was not due to fraud, misrepresentation or
willful nondisclosure on the part of the recipient, and (2) the
overpayment was received without fault on the part of the recipient,
and its recovery would be against equity and good conscience.
(b) The person who received the overpayment cooperates with the
department in an investigation that results in the assessment of a
penalty under Section 1144 or the prosecution or other action taken
to impose a penalty pursuant to Section 2121.
(c) The department determines that it is in the interest of
justice to waive all or part of the liability established under this
section because the overpayment was a direct result of inducement,
solicitation, or coercion on the part of the employer.
Accordingly, if you can prove ANY of the above criteria, repayment of the overpaid sum will typically NOT be required.
In regard to the ALJ judge speaking with HR at your hearing, this would typically not be a violation of procedure because this is an administrative hearing, not a judicial proceeding, and the rules that govern administrative hearings are very informal and generally allow for such communication.
If you have any questions or concerns whatsoever regarding my answer, please do not hesitate to ask for clarification.
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