Unemployment insurance is a federal program that’s run and administered by the states. For the most part, employers pay the premiums on your unemployment insurance and dictate the terms of payment when you lose a job through no fault of your own. If you’re not satisfied with the state’s determination about your eligibility for unemployment, then you have the right to appeal.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
If your application for unemployment benefits is denied, you can file an appeal.
Reasons that Won’t Work
If you were let go because of a lack of work, unemployment benefits are pretty standard as long as you’ve worked long enough under your state’s regulations. But there also are some pretty standard reasons for being disqualified that are hard to get around. For example, if you’re not available for work, then you’re usually not qualified for unemployment. If you just up and leave the job without a good reason, or you’re fired for misconduct, it will be difficult to appeal. And if you refuse to do a job that’s suitable to your skills, you usually won’t win an appeals case.
Where to File an Appeal
States are grouped into six regions under the federal Career One Stop program. That’s where you can file your appeal. The office often is located in your area’s unemployment office. The feds have no jurisdiction over your appeal, so you have to deal with local authorities on the matter and provide them with any documentation they request, interviews they deem necessary and reports they may want you to fill out. Be honest in all your statements because misrepresenting anything will definitely kick out your appeal. The agency will get statements and records from your employer before rendering a final judgment on your appeal.
Follow the Path to Your Benefits
Each state has a different deadline you must stick within to file your appeal, ranging from 10 to 30 days. You can expect your employer to fight your appeal, especially if there is any gray area in your dismissal and your employer believes it has the power. Unemployment benefits end up costing money to employers so they have a vested interest in fighting claims. You’ll attend a hearing on your case where the employer and you present your case in front of a judge. You can bring in witnesses and documentation to help your case. Both sides have the right to cross-examine each other’s witnesses. You don’t have to have a lawyer with you, but very often the employer will bring one.
Good Reasons to Appeal
You always have the right to appeal a decision, even after the first hearing doesn’t go your way, but some cases have a better chance of winning than others. A common appeal is that you quit because of workplace harassment of some sort. You’ll need to have witnesses and keep careful documentation about the incidents that caused you harm to win this one. A letter from your doctor or counselor also could help with this kind of appeal.
If you can prove the misconduct you’re charged with was unintentional, or you were forced to do it, you might stand a chance of winning. Or, if you employer incorrectly reported your earnings, showing you didn’t earn enough to collect, you have a good case if you can prove your earnings were not reported correctly. If your boss can’t prove you were fired for a good reason, then your claim might win as well. A "he said/she said" case isn’t as strong as one in which you bring documentation and proof of your eligibility.
- Career One Stop: Service Locator
- NOLO: Denied Unemployment Benefits: The Appeal Process
- Career One Stop: Applications may be rejected for several reasons, but you may appeal for reconsideration.
- AboutUnemployment.org: Unemployment Benefits Denied? To Appeal or Not To Appeal?
- Washington State Employment Security Department: Benefit Denials and Appeals
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."