Unemployment Benefits Denials and Appeals

You can file an unemployment appeal in many different situations if you disagree with a decision the unemployment office makes about your benefits. Ex-employers can also file an appeal if they disagree with a determination.

When you are denied unemployment or want to contest any other unemployment decision, the process for making an appeal will vary based on where you live. Each state’s unemployment office has its own procedures and policies that you must follow.

In general, you will need to compose an unemployment appeal letter or fill out an online form (if offered by your state) and return it to the benefits office by a set deadline. Most states have a strict deadline by which you must submit an appeal. Without meeting this due date, you forfeit your rights to an appeal. Below, learn everything you need to know about unemployment appeals, including what happens after you contest an unemployment decision.

Reasons to File an Unemployment Appeal

You can request an unemployment hearing for a number of reasons. Essentially, any time you disagree with a decision your unemployment office makes, you can contest it. Common reasons to file an appeal include having your benefits reduced, having your claim denied or needing to return an overpayment of benefits that you disagree with.

You may also need to attend an unemployment appeal hearing if your employer disputes your claim for benefits. Keep in mind that employers are responsible for paying for your benefits if you have worked for them long enough and were paid enough in wages. Because they can be charged for your benefits, employers may want to contest your unemployment claim if they believe it is not justified.

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Furthermore, if you were fired or quit on your own and file for unemployment, your employer may contest your claim automatically. If an employer believes you should be denied unemployment for misconduct or other similar reasons, it does not necessarily mean that you are ineligible for compensation. However, you will need to undergo a hearing so that the unemployment office can consider both sides of the dispute and make a fair decision.

How soon should you appeal unemployment decisions?

Unemployment appeals can be requested whenever a claimant disagrees with the unemployment agency’s decision. However, claimants must adhere to any deadlines that the agency may set for making an appeal. In most cases, unemployment offices will require that all appeals are made within 10 to 15 days of a determination letter being delivered. Petitioners who fail to respond within the designated timeframe will usually lose their right to make an appeal.

Methods for Appealing Unemployment Determinations

If you are denied unemployment benefits, there are several methods you can use to make an appeal. The exact methods for appealing a decision will vary by state, but in general, you can contest a decision through the mail, via fax, in person or online. If you are making an appeal online, simply go to your state’s official unemployment website and locate the necessary online form.

When online unemployment appeals are not available, you will need to obtain a paper appeal form from the unemployment office or compose a letter to contest the denial. Any time you make an appeal in writing, your correspondence should include the following:

  • Your name, address and Social Security Number
  • The date you received your unemployment decision or denial
  • The reason that you are appealing the denial or decision

When you appeal unemployment, be mindful that your request is usually a matter of public record. Therefore, any materials that go with your appeal may be accessed by anyone without you being notified. While the state will retain a record of your appeal, it is always a good idea to keep a copy of any correspondence that you send.

Unemployment Hearing Procedures

You usually have the option of submitting to an unemployment hearing over the phone, but some states will only allow you to complete the process in person. When you have the option, the unemployment office will let you choose the method you prefer. In states that require appeal hearings to take place in person, you must attend or your appeal will usually be dismissed. No matter how your hearing is conducted, you must be available during the scheduled time.

In any case, unemployment appeal interviews are usually made up of two parts. A first-level appeal is carried out when you contest the initial denial of your benefits, while a second-level appeal can be made if you disagree with the outcome of the first-level hearing. In most states, first-level appeals are made with an administrative law judge (ALJ), while second-level appeals are brought in front of an employment appeal board or a board of review. You do not have to complete a second-level appeal unless you disagree with the results of your first hearing.

How to Prepare for an Unemployment Appeal Hearing

Knowing the unemployment appeal hearing questions ahead of time will help you prepare for your meeting or phone interview. You may be provided with a list of questions when your unemployment agency schedules your hearing. It is important to understand that unemployment appeals are different from fact-finding interviews that an unemployment office may use to understand eligibility requirements for benefits, and as such, you may want to take different steps to prepare.

The most important difference between a fact-finding interview and an unemployment hearing is that the hearing process is more formal. As a result, you have the option of hiring an attorney to represent you if you wish, but many claimants represent themselves. It is important to keep in mind that the unemployment office will usually have an attorney of its own, but you cannot ask him or her for help with your case. Whether you hire legal representation or not, you should be prepared to testify during the hearing and present any evidence that may help your case.

What happens after you appeal unemployment decisions?

After you submit an unemployment appeal letter and have your hearing, the unemployment board or ALJ will need time to make a decision. The processing time will vary based on where you live, but you can expect to wait anywhere from one to three weeks. During this time, you should understand the process for filing unemployment claims on a weekly or bi-weekly basis until your appeal is processed if you are currently receiving any benefits. Failing to file claims during the waiting period can create additional problems.

Once your appeal for unemployment is processed, the agency will provide a notification with the outcome of the hearing. If you still have your unemployment denied after the initial hearing, remember that you can appeal the ALJ’s decision and undergo a second-level hearing.

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