Finding Fault For the Loss of a Job At Unemployment Hearings

A lower level unemployment appeal hearing is also called, the Full Fact Finder.

Regardless of what a state may call an administrative law hearing, unemployment hearings are full fact finders and are supposed to be the last event where the circumstances leading to a voluntary quit, or a termination will be fully explored so fault can finally, be properly assigned to the correct party.

Further appeals to a board of review aren't supposed to argue those facts anymore, but explain why and how, the appeal section, or hearing officer that conducted the hearing procedurally .. screwed up.

Nobody knows better than you why you weren't at fault as far as unemployment law is concerned .. right?  But the real question is can you prove it, will you be correctly allowed to prove what's credible and true.

Here's a question I believe every unemployment claimant who implicitly believes they weren't at fault should ask themselves before they go to their hearing without representation.

Do I know how to present the most persuasive argument I had good cause to quit, or I was fired for some reason other than misconduct?  Maybe even more importantly, do I know what it often takes to satisfy the standard of law used to reach a hearing decision for my unemployment appeal?

The Standard of Law for Unemployment Appeal Hearing

The standard of law for unemployment hearings is a preponderance.  Ideally, this means that through a combination of testimony from yourself, witnesses, evidence and an effective cross examination you won't have to go beyond a shadow of a doubt to prove fault at an unemployment hearing, but just convincingly sway the one who will be judging all that stuff as you having provided the most credible version of the facts.

My advice is to forget about those sham hearings posted to YouTube by state unemployment agencies as they are not representative of what really can and does happen to both sides of an argument when someone lies convincingly and simply sounds credible.

As stressed as you might be about winning your first .. first unemployment appeal hearing this is not the place, or time to let your emotions, or self doubt get the better of you and  rule over your PLAN to represent yourself pro se at a quasi-administrative law proceeding.

Let's start with some things I know about prepping to win a hearing in general.

Unemployment hearings are conducted much like a  mini trial and most frequently, by phone in this United states which is why I might be able to refer you to an experienced hearing rep on the other side of the country from where you are. 

Both you and your former employer will have procedural rights to due process as dictated by a state's rules for administrative law hearings, before and during this hearing.    This includes some important rules governing types of evidence and witness lists.

Preparation for improving your odds of winning an unemployment hearing can be as individual as the facts that led to the demise of your job, but do not ignore the important instructions that come with every hearing notice.

Those instruction inform you of some of your most important rights to due process.

  • The need for first hand (direct) testimony
  • The right to have witnesses (even if you need to subpoena one)
  • The right to submit evidence (even if you need to subpoena the evidence) 
  •  The right to make pre-hearing requests to save your right to due process (Unprepared?  Request a postponement.  Email me if you need help with this)  

The last bullet point is important if you want to protect an important right to due process.  Attending a first level unemployment hearing unprepared is the WORST thing you can do because your attendance is the equivalent of waiving a right to due process and saying you were prepared.

Just trying to help you avoid a meritless board appeal.

Why Unemployed People Should Always Be Represented At Unemployment Hearings

I'm not exactly clueless when it comes to how unemployment appeals actually work, but in 2009 when the "temp agency appealed my benefits after I quit and received benefits, I chose to be represented.  It's one thing to understand the quasi legal concepts of good cause to quit, or be fired, it's another to argue that it existed .. convincingly and without saying something that might be interpreted as credibly, self-disqualifying.

So yes, I have a problem with states that make representation sound like an extravagant option when the one who would benefit the most, is without a clue.  

These are just a few examples of what you might find about unemployment representation at your state website that clearly do not explain the disastrous consequences of appealing to a board of review.

  • Oregon-  Hearings are informal.  You can, but do not have to, obtain legal representation.  We can make special arrangements if you are hearing-impaired or need a special accommodation.  If you disagree with the hearings decision,you can appeal it to the Employment Appeals Board.  Follow the instructions for requesting a review which are included with the hearing decision.  The Employment Appeals Board reviews only the recording and the documents from the hearing.  They mail a decision to you and your employer after they complete their review.  If you disagree with this decision, you can appeal it to the Oregon Court of Appeals and further appellate courts.
  • Illinois -  Can someone help me?   The hearing process is designed for the parties without a representative. The Referee is charged with conducting a fair and impartial hearing and it is his/her responsibility to protect the rights of all parties. However, you have the right to have a representative of your choice to help you at the hearing. Your representative can be an attorney or any other individual you choose.  
  • New York - Do I need a lawyer?  No, but you have the right to be represented by an attorney or representative of your choice. An attorney or representative of a claimant cannot charge a fee unless the claimant is successful and the amount of the fee has been approved by the Appeal Board.  (Fact, this doesn't hold true for a cost control company)
  • Florida -  SHOULD I HIRE AN ATTORNEY?   Professional representation is not required and most people represent themselves at unemployment hearings. You have the right to be represented by an attorney or authorized representative at your own expense. Fees for representing a claimant must be approved by the appeals referee, but paid by the claimant.

I agree, most people might represent themselves, but after years of coordinating first level appeal hearing for some of the largest companies known to man, I can tell you for a fact, I jumped through hoops to make sure they were always represented by a professional unemployment hearing representative and that they won the hearing seventy-five percent of the time because they were represented.

That I requested more postponement than I can count to make certain I protected an employers rights to due process before a hearing ever took place shouldn't just be a service of hearing representation .. exclusive to the businesses interests.

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