BUREAUCRACY

Spanish actress ordered to repay €7,704 after reporting workplace fraud

Rocío Hoces stuck in red tape nightmare for 18 months after lodging complaint against negligent employer

Seville-based actress Rocío Hoces found herself the victim of a “communication problem” that led her to being ordered to repay €7,704 in unemployment benefits after she reported a Cordoba theater company to the authorities for failing to provide her with a contract, not informing the Social Security she had been employed, and neglecting to pay her.

Rocío Hoces outside an employment office in Seville.
Rocío Hoces outside an employment office in Seville.PACO PUENTES / EL PAIS

“The message this sends out is that you should look the other way, that doing things the wrong way is worth it. If I hadn’t reported this, nothing would have happened and I would have carried on receiving my unemployment payment,” says the 35-year-old single mother after 18 months pursuing her case, during which time the Spanish Ministry of Employment has insisted she return benefit payments.

After finding out the story of her red tape nightmare was to be published by EL PAÍS, regional employment authorities have promised to resolve her case immediately.

Hoces was hired by the Cordoba-based Asociación Cultural Teatro al Cubo to perform in The Jewess of Toledo, by 17th century Spanish playwright Lope de Vega, in the city’s Teatro Góngora on September 12, 2015, as part of celebrations for the 700th anniversary of the Cordoba synagogue. The theater company had been contracted by Cordoba City Hall.

The worker, who should be protected, has ended up being pursued Lawyer Antonio Castro

Two days later, she informed her local employment office that she had worked for one day, so that adjustments could be made to her unemployment benefit. But no record of any contracts relating to the performance could be found, and nor had the theater company informed the Social Security about the 12 people involved in the performance.

The theater company did not reply to calls from Hoces and never paid her or the other actors, so the performers decided to report the matter to the local employment office, as well as the Spanish Labor Inspectorate, which is when her problems began: the Labor Inspectorate decided to register her as employed, communicating this to the employment authorities.

The message this sends is that doing things the wrong way is worth it Rocío Hoces

The local employment office then determined that the actors had failed to inform the office in time that they were employed, ruling it would suspend further unemployment benefits and in the case of Hoces demanding the return of €7,704 on the grounds it was “incompatible with being employed by a third party.”

This was despite Hoces was never having formally been employed because the theater company acted illegally and without City Hall – which had paid the theater company – checking the terms and conditions of employment.

Hoces and lawyer, Antonio Castro, have spent the last 18 months pursuing the case. “The worker, who should be protected, has ended up being pursued,” notes Castro.

After the publishing of this story. Labor ministry sources told EL PAÍS the matter would be rapidly resolved in favor of Hoces, citing a possible “communication problem.”

English version by Nick Lyne.

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