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A Lower Authority Unemployment Appeal Hearing

Since 2008, I began answering just about every question I received about unemployment, including questions about related to an unemployment appeal, with the assumption any claimant could be in the position of having to win a first level unemployment appeal hearing (lower level, tribunal, commission, etc), even those clueless about why they might be able to win.

Preparing to Win an Unemployment Appeal

Winning, or losing, is first know the issue, or issues and preparing from  the perspective of what burden of proof has to be met, or sustained at a hearing. 

I have been known to ask questions I think would help me clarify the chronological timeline of events and circumstances that led to  the final incident and cause for separation. 

Truth, to be turned into fact, can be a tricky business involving evidence and or a subpoena to get HELPFUL evidence not in your possession.  But not as tricky as the skillful art of know when and how to sway and/or compelling a hearing officer to accept your verbal and relevant argument, made during a hearing, which may include things such as first hand testimony of witnesses, as the credible story and therefore the accepted facts deciding the case.

Ironically, knowing how a hearing should be conducted isn't something most people know when it's being conducted improperly, at least before appearing at a hearing.   Yet, representing ourselves, makes this our job.  You should be aware of your/our \ rights to due process during the hearing .. or if you want, you can take the advice of many states and expect you can trust the hearing officer to make a decision that's proper .. even if it ends up making you feel it fits closer to those hidden personal biases you pick up on at the hearing, than to any eligibility rules, regulations and possibly, a board's, or appeal court decision that has set an unemployment insurance precedent .. you read .. I'm sure.

USDOLETA also has a handbook explaining how all states are expected to conform to some basic rules for conducting a quality lower appeal authority unemployment hearing .. if your state needs a handbook to know how to comply with conducting a first level tribunal hearing, then, why don't we, especially if a claimant is expected to represent themselves adequately at a quasi-legal (informal ....?) administrative law hearing.

After all, the unemployment appeal process commences only if you, or your employer deems to write  an appeal letter to disagree with a claim level determination.

To be clear, a claim determination can be easily appealed with, or without merit, because determs are based on meeting a standard of law that requires only "the available information" at the claim level.   For all intent and purpose, most all determination are  pre-determination by the department's gatekeepers (adjudicators, eligibility interviewers) and if you think it's wrong .. erroneous, makes no sense to you whatsoever, then exercise your right to appeal .. because employers do.   

By filing an unemployment appeal, a question has been raised if the available information was enough, or if more information might reverse the initial determination.  This is probably why lower level appeal hearing are also called FULL FACT FINDER HEARINGS.   

In other words, whether you were initially approved, or denied unemployment benefits .. an appeal letter acts as a signal by someone who wants to debate in front of the state's lower level appeal authority) .. if the available information was enough to get benefits, or keep them.

Why It's Important to Win the First Unemployment Hearing

Beyond a tribunal unemployment appeal hearing, if you don't win, there's always an appeal to the agency's higher appeal authority, usually called the Unemployment Insurance Board of Review.

Have you ever wondered what it is boards that review, review for?  Or how, or what you are now expected to know you should argue about.. in written format, some even call a written brief .. or maybe they mean a quasi-legal written argument  for the average do-it-yourself claimant.

I often call an unemployment department, a quasi-legal administrative law agency because it is and to drive home the point to claimants .. who only won this hearing if representing themselves when I worked on hearings for employers, somewhere between 25 to 30 times, out of every hundred hearings I coordinated (I was not a hearing rep, but a hearing coordinator).

I've always thought the answer to why this was so .. was obvious.  Experience is what you need to  represent yourself well, against the professional I contracted to rep the employer.   But how do you acquire a level of experience arguing about unemployment law should work on a case by case basis, when your goal may be more simple to never lose a job again .. through no fault of your own.

It's either a conundrum .. or more likely the intended proverbial rock and a hard place unemployment insurance appeal hearings put claimants in.

Sample Unemployment Appeal Letter .. For a Claimant

The point of offering a free sample appeal letter for claimants, is my sincere hope you won't disqualify yourself with an unemployment appeal letter, even before your hearing is docketed and or have a chance to ask me if I can refer you to a professional UI hearing rep.


How to Write Your Own Unemployment Appeal Letter for a Denial of Benefits

If you don't like the template  above .. my advice is to still Keep It Simple Stupid   .. because that's what gets the job of requesting a lower level hearing done .. in most states. 

(Heads up Illinois and Ohio .. because you should be ready for the incessant redundancy that causes a form to be sent to request a reconsideration .. or redetermination.  Just an extra step in the otherwise typical state process, before you can get to requesting a lower level tribunal appeal hearing after a redetermination.)

Unemployment Appeal Hearing Instructions .. A Built-In Reality Check for Yourself

To date, I haven't attempted to systematically link to all state hearing instructions for every state because they aren't all found online .. and because I threw away that folder I once had with all fifty .. and even Puerto Rico's in it.

Ummmm I think it's sort of necessary to read hearing instructions that come with every unemployment hearing notice .. especially, if you're somewhere near clueless about what goes on at hearings.

Maybe what you need is a coach who can explain to you how to represent yourself.

It's good to know what information was made available during the initial process. A state agency's keeps a file on your claim to include all that information gathered from both a claimant and employer during the initial claim process.   The file should also include the adjudicator's notes, because frequently, it's good to get some much needed insight as to what you said .. and what they wrote in their notes about what you said.

If your state does not provide the state claim file prior to the notice of unemployment hearing, or does not transfer this claim file to the appeal section of the UI department,  I would advise you still call your state to find out what you have to do to obtain a copy of the state's file on your claim. 

The first unemployment appeal hearing, is referred to as a FULL fact finder proceeding for a reason.  The purpose of all first level hearings, is to fully establish the record about the listed issues found on a hearing notice.  You have subpoena rights .. for documents, or witnesses relevant to proving, or rebutting the burden of proof .. no matter what some employee at the department might tell you.

And finally, understand what  standard of law is being used at unemployment appeal hearings .. because it's not beyond a shadow of a doubt .. but a preponderance of the evidence and testimony provided at the FIRST unemployment hearing.

Appealing a Monetary Determination of Benefits

The initial monetary determination at minimum will establish the base period for your claim, and there they find the highest quarter of earnings in to establish how much unemployment benefits you will receive each week.

I don't know about you, but I think how much unemployment will pay is an important issue and one that any erroneous departmental errors causing a smaller weekly benefit amount for any reason needs to be assessed and appealed when necessary.

Need answers about appealing unemployment monetary determinations?

The Last Chance Appeal to An Unemployment Insurance Board of Review.

Do you have relevant evidence, or testimony you believe might of helped you to win the first and usually last lower level unemployment hearing?

Why didn't you have it prepared to submit for the first hearing?

But now that you've lost the first hearing you want to if have what it takes for a successful appeal to a board that reviews hearing decisions and possibly for procedural mistakes made by a hearing officer.


This is Why You Want to Avoid Having to Appeal a Hearing Decision to an Unemployment Board of Review

You  should want to win the first unemployment hearing because winning a second level board of review appeal isn't  a second chance to explain your story of job loss, but to explain why you quasi legally, deserve a second chance to have another first level hearing to do that.

Board appeals aren't always difficult.   Often used by employers for things, like asking for a reopening, so they can show good cause for non-appearance at the first hearing.  I've personally spent a great deal of time  .. doing just this .. requesting postponements for employers as a method of protecting their right to due process because it improves the odds for a reopening and another lower level hearing.

But, when both parties appear for the lower level hearing, a board appeal is usually disagreeing with a hearing officer .. or their decision.

For this, you need a good written argument (called a brief in some circles) pointing out the H.O's errors and defects made on the record by the hearing officer who was also mandated to conduct the first unemployment hearing fairly and impartially.

So, let me ask you, do you know when to object on the record?  Do you know you can make a request during the hearing for continuances so you might obtain evidence you know will help explain your position .. and verbal argument made at a hearing.

There's more to preparing to win the first hearing than spilling your guts at one .. you have to learn how to tell your story in a way not common to most of us.  As if you knew what happens at administrative law hearings and the laws that should be applied in your case.

More Related to Unemployment Appeals

Unemployment Law  It contains the issues found on all appeal hearing notices.

Sample Appeal Letter For a Denial of Unemployment - Instead of writing an untenable short story.

Frequently Asked Appeal Hearing  Questions

Unemployment Hearing Reps and Employee / Unemployment Coaching

Unemployment Tips Home

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