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Do I need a lawyer for my unemployment phone hearing?

by Amy

Hi. I was fired from my serving job in Chicago. My mgr said my table came in 2 days later saying I used profanity. I did not.

I was approved benefits, which my employer appealed. What can I expect in this phone hearing tomorrow? Can they bring up other things or do they have to stick to the misconduct reason? I’m not sure what to expect. I am representing myself. I felt confident, but am concerned of a curve ball.

Thank you,

Hi Amy,

I would say it's likely, an employer would describe the cause for termination to an unemployment department as being customer complaints, or inappropriate conduct in the workplace.

What happens at your phone hearing (Illinois conducts it's tribunal unemployment hearings by phone) given what details I have to work with, is the employer would need to do more than just tell that story .. that people at a table you served came in two days after you served them and complained you used profanity. That alone isn't a strong argument for why you were fired for misconduct. (I have discussed previously what employers generally need to do to more effectively improve the odds of meeting their burden,
before a final incident, becomes what finally forces them into discharging an employee for misconduct.
Discharge Q&As)

But you raised
a big question mark for me about what they might also have to say at the hearing, about previous incidents you might of been warned about prior to this last occurrence.

"Can they bring up other things or do they have to stick to the misconduct reason"

Any previous warnings concerning customer complaints, or violation of an employer rule, or policy concerning the use of profanity, or other inappropriate conduct in the workplace Amy? If so, it could go to heart of what I've always had to say about how many employer's know it's best to know how to prove the burden of misconduct .. before discharging an employee.

Previous warnings due to customer, or co-worker complaints about using profanity in the past .. could literally add weight to tip the scale, on who the ALJ believes is being credible about the final incident.

As for your question in the title, about needing an unemployment lawyer, it's definitely a choice left up to you.

But to be clear, Illinois does not require claimants, or employers to have a lawyer, should they choose to be represented. Illinois, like many other states allows for "other representatives". Generally speaking, "other" can mean a highly experience non-attorney, who's been specializing in representing employers, and/or claimants at unemployment insurance law hearings, for a long time .. as a career.


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