Paying federal and state unemployment taxes to fund the unemployment tax system is one of many obligations employers have to 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 or not. In addition, taking proper measures in order to win unemployment hearings can be a very effective approach in the process of lowering unemployment costs. Like the unemployment insurance process itself, 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. Both 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 have the opportunity to 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 either to 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 the hearing 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 prior to 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, it is imperative that employers 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 second-hand 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 first-hand knowledge concerning the claimant’s separation.
Instructing Participants Before the Hearing
An important element that may be necessary to win unemployment hearings is having a meeting with all the people 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 in writing everything from employee policy violations to performance issues and misconduct.
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 an automated solution to ensure high efficiency, cost savings, and support while navigating through the complex unemployment insurance process.