How to Win Your Unemployment Appeal Hearing: Employers’ Guide

Published: April 30, 2024 by Wayne Rottger

employer reviewing a guide for winning an unemployment appeal hearing

Paying federal and state unemployment taxes to fund the unemployment tax system is one of many obligations employers must meet. No matter the size of their company, they need to understand how the unemployment insurance system works and, instead of accepting unemployment taxes as the cost of doing business, take the necessary steps to keep their unemployment tax rate low. For instance, employers should always determine if their former employees are eligible for unemployment benefits and carefully evaluate whether to contest an unemployment claim. In addition, taking proper measures to win unemployment hearings can be an effective approach in lowering unemployment costs. Like the unemployment insurance process, managing an unemployment appeal hearing and reaching a positive outcome can be complex and time-consuming. However, no matter the state employers reside in or the cause for the appeal, there are steps employers can take in different stages of this process to increase their odds and win unemployment hearings.

What Is an Unemployment Appeal Hearing?

Understanding how this process works is critical for employers to win unemployment hearings. Employers and former employees have the right to appeal any decision that affects unemployment benefits. Thus, unemployment benefits hearings are organized to allow the parties to present testimony and evidence that enable the hearing officer to make an impartial decision.

Unemployment appeal hearings are similar to a hearing in a court of law but less formal and usually present the final opportunity for employers to submit any new evidence or testimony. Therefore, they need to check a hearing notice for the rules regarding evidence and it must be submitted, including whether previously submitted evidence must be submitted again and be provided to a former employee before the hearing.

During the unemployment appeal hearing, both the employer and the employee can state their positions. This is followed by the hearing judge’s questioning of both parties and any witnesses who are present. The questions relate directly to whether or not the employee is eligible for unemployment benefits, focus on specific eligibility standards and depend on the issues disputed by parties.

After unemployment hearings, employers receive a hearing decision outlining the facts obtained at the hearing, the applicable laws or regulations on which the hearing officer based their decision, and their conclusion to either uphold or reverse the initial determination on the claim.

An unfavorable hearing decision may have appeal rights to a state’s board of review. However, mere disagreement with the result is not a basis for an appeal and there must be a legal reason or error for a successful outcome. Appeals beyond the board of review usually are filed with the appropriate state court.

Best Practices to Win Unemployment Appeal Hearings

Despite employers’ best efforts, unemployment hearings will happen, so it is important for them to be prepared. To do so, they should focus on some of the most important elements:

Paying Attention to the Hearing Notice

After receiving the hearing notice, employers should read it carefully and make sure to understand the participation instructions provided by the state. They usually cover the date and time of the hearing, whether it is being held in person or over the phone, how to submit documentation for the hearing and how to provide employers’ and witnesses’ contact information.

Preparing the Necessary Documents

Gathering all relevant documents is one of the most important elements necessary to win unemployment hearings. Hence, employers attending an unemployment hearing should submit any requested documents to the hearing officer before the hearing and bring all necessary records to the hearing to defend their position. These documents might include the following:

  • Employment history documents showing the employee’s first and last day of employment, their job title, duties and pay rate at the time of separation.
  • Disciplinary records and performance reviews outlining warnings, suspensions and performance improvement plans; and
  • Policies and procedures including the company handbook, attendance records, applicable training manuals, copies of posted bulletins regarding policies and signed acknowledgment of receipt forms for all of these documents.

In case of failing to submit the necessary documents at the initial protest level, employers much have them for the hearing. Otherwise, the hearing officer may disallow the documents from being considered as evidence of the separation.

Choosing the Right Witnesses

When deciding who should attend the hearing, employers should consider people who actually witnessed the specific situation, such as a former employee’s wrongdoing. Written statements or secondhand testimony by a supervisor or human resources representative can be easily dismissed as hearsay and challenged by employees. Therefore, employers should focus on individuals with the most firsthand knowledge concerning the claimant’s separation.

Instructing Participants Before the Hearing

An important element that might be necessary to win unemployment hearings is meeting with everyone from an organization that will be attending the hearing to make sure that they understand the process and their role in the process. This can also be an excellent opportunity to review all the relevant documentation that will be discussed during the hearing.

Reducing Costs With Proper Handling of Unemployment Hearings

Managing unemployment claims is the most important part of unemployment insurance compliance. So, even before a claim is filed, employers should have an established system to help them decide which documents to retrieve and review, whom to interview, and how to quickly gather relevant information. In order to win your unemployment appeal hearing, it is necessary to devote time and effort to prepare. Also, employers should make sure to understand requirements regarding unemployment eligibility in different states and to document everything from employee policy violations to performance issues and misconduct in writing.

Finally, using manual processes for unemployment claims management can lead to limited access to data, poor data integrity, an increased number of errors, low customer service, and various system failures. Contrary to this, outsourcing unemployment claims management enhances the entire claims management process, including unemployment hearings. Automated unemployment management improves compliance and allows employers to efficiently monitor and control unemployment claims, appeal unfavorable decisions, implement the necessary regulations accurately, and lower the unemployment tax rate. Improve your unemployment management with a solution ensuring high efficiency, cost savings and support while navigating the complex unemployment insurance process.

Dealing With Challenges and Pitfalls

There are various challenges and pitfalls that come with an employer appealing unemployment, as these hearings can be stressful and time-consuming. However, understanding these challenges can help you navigate when an employer appeals unemployment.

Addressing Contradictions and Inconsistencies

During an unemployment hearing, inconsistencies and contradictions between your statements, your former employee’s statements and any evidence can weaken your case. With that in mind, make sure to prepare thoroughly, stay honest and provide context when needed while highlighting relevant facts.

Handling Emotional Testimony

If you want to win your unemployment appeal hearing, you must know how to handle the emotional testimony. Unemployment hearings can be emotional, especially when discussing job loss or difficult workplace situations. To prepare for a hearing, do your best to stay calm, stick to the facts of the case, avoid getting too personal and take breaks when needed.

Maintaining Professionalism and Respect

One of the key tips on how to win your unemployment appeal hearing is to remain professional and respectful. Make sure to show respect to your former employer, the hearing officer or administrative law judge, witnesses and any other personnel. Use formal language and active listening. Paying close attention to others will show you’re taking the process seriously.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an appeal hearing?

An appeal hearing occurs when the losing party of an unemployment determination appeals it. That means it could be appealed by either the former employee or the employer. An appeal hearing allows the claimant, the one seeking benefits, and their former employer to present their sides and any evidence to support their claims.

What happens if an employer does not respond to an unemployment claim?

If an employer fails to respond to an unemployment claim, the former employee’s version of events could be taken as uncontested, which may result in the unemployment agency proceeding with the available information, resulting in a decision that favors the claimant. However, other jurisdictions may require employer responses, and failure to respond can result in a claimant’s benefits being automatically granted and the loss of further appeal rights by the employer.

What happens at an unemployment hearing?

During an unemployment hearing, the employee and former employer can present their cases and provide any supporting evidence and documents that back their claims. Both sides can present their arguments and bring in witnesses, where a hearing officer or administrative law judge will ask questions and evaluate the presented information to make a decision about the eligibility for unemployment benefits.

How long do unemployment appeals take?

The duration of an unemployment appeal varies by jurisdiction and various factors, such as the complexity of the case and the number of cases an appeals office is currently managing. Some decisions can take a few weeks, and others can take a few months.

Do you have to go to court for an unemployment hearing?

Not all jurisdictions require you to go to court for an unemployment hearing. In some cases, hearings can be conducted over the phone or through video conferencing, with the specific process depending on the jurisdiction.

What happens if you lose an unemployment appeal hearing?

If you lose an unemployment appeal hearing, the initial decision to deny unemployment benefits may stand. However, some jurisdictions may allow you to take your appeal to a higher authority or court.

Should I hire legal representation for the appeal hearing?

Whether you hire legal representation for your appeal hearing depends on the complexity of your case and your comfort level with the appeal process. Legal representation can be beneficial if you’re unfamiliar with the law or have a complex case.

What happens if I win the appeal as an employer?

If you’re an employer who appealed an employee’s unemployment benefits and won the unemployment appeal, the initial decision to grant an employee unemployment benefits will be reversed and you will not be responsible for those benefits. Or, if a former employee appealed the denial of their unemployment benefits and you won that appeal, the initial decision will stand and you will not be responsible for their unemployment benefits. In either case, it is always a good idea to audit the unemployment benefit charge statements to make certain you are not being charged for either of these instances.

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