UI Claims Management

Tips for Winning Unemployment Hearings

06.03.2019

Author

Jeff Aleixo

winning-unemployment-claims

Contrary to common belief that unemployment insurance benefits come from a fund paid into by employees, it is employers who are financially responsible for them. Moreover, unemployment insurance costs are usually far higher than just the amount of an unemployment claim.

Instead of accepting unemployment taxes as the cost of doing business, employers need to take necessary steps to keep their unemployment tax rate low. For instance, they should always make sure if former employees are eligible for unemployment benefits and carefully evaluate whether to contest an unemployment claim or not. In addition to this, proper handling and winning unemployment hearings can be a very effective approach in the process of lowering unemployment costs.

Like the unemployment insurance process itself, winning unemployment hearings can be complicated. However, no matter the state employers reside in or the cause for the appeal, there are steps employers can undertake to improve the chances of winning their cases.

What Is an Unemployment Hearing?

Employers and former employees have the right to appeal any decision that affects unemployment benefits. An unemployment hearing is conducted when an employer contests a former employee’s right to unemployment benefits. Every state has its own rules for filing an appeal. Once employers decide to appeal, it is very important to do so timely. State time limits typically range from 10 to 30 days from the mailing date of the agency’s decision notice. The notice employers receive usually explains how to appeal the decision and may even include an appeal form. Once an appeal is filed, it is sent to the unemployment benefits department’s appeals division.

Unemployment hearings are not as formal as court hearings. Their purpose is to allow the parties to present testimony and evidence that will enable the hearing officer to make an impartial decision. Employers need to check a hearing notice for the rules regarding evidence and how they have to be submitted, including whether previously submitted evidence must be submitted again and be provided to a former employee before the hearing. The hearing is also the final opportunity for employers to submit any new evidence or testimonies.

During the 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 and focus on specific eligibility standards. The questions asked at a specific hearing depend on the issues disputed by parties.

Burden of Proof

Unemployment hearings revolve around reasons for termination that can be caused by employment misconduct or a situation where an employee quit for a good reason caused by an employer. The burden of proof usually falls on the party who initiated the separation:

  • In case of a voluntary separation, it is employees’ responsibility as claimants to prove that they quit for good cause attributable to the employer. However, there are exceptions where benefits may still be paid even if the reason for separation is not attributable to the employer.
  • If an employee was involuntarily dismissed, the burden of proof is on the employer to show that the claimant should be disqualified from receiving benefits, in accordance with state unemployment insurance standards. In this case it is of utmost importance to closely define misconduct because it is determined differently in each state. Employers need to review every detail since this may affect the hearing officer’s determination and the process of winning unemployment hearings.
Read about the improvement of SUI trust fund health and how the total number of states carrying federal UI loan debt was reduced.

Taking Steps to Ensure Winning Unemployment Hearings

When employers decide to appeal an unemployment benefits claim, there are several things they need to keep in mind:

Reading the Hearing Notice Carefully

The first step for employers is to read the hearing notice thoroughly and make sure to understand the participation instructions provided by the state. This will include 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 your and your witnesses’ contact information.

Taking the Process Seriously

Even before a claim is filed, employers should have a system in place to help them decide which documents to retrieve and review, whom to interview, and how to quickly gather relevant information. Winning unemployment hearings depends on devoting the proper time and effort to preparing. A lack of preparation by the employer will not go unnoticed by the hearing judge.

Deciding Who Should Attend the Hearing

It is advisable to include people who actually witnessed the specific situation, such as former employee’s wrongdoing. This should be an individual with the first-hand knowledge concerning the claimant’s separation, such as a manager or supervisor. Second-hand testimony, also known as hearsay testimony, is not usually considered credible. A primary reason for unfavorable outcomes at unemployment hearings can be a lack of first-hand witness participation.

Handling unemployment insurance is complex and time consuming. This guide explains both federal and state unemployment insurance together with UI best practices.

Documenting Everything

In order to achieve effective unemployment claims management, every step of employment relationship should be documented. In case of firing an employee for cause, employers need to create a paper trail showing what the employee did wrong, how they violated company policy, whether the employee was given a chance to improve, and why the company ultimately chose termination. Also, employers need to document hours and work history because employees may not be eligible for unemployment benefits if they were not employed for sufficient duration.

Integrating UI Claims Management Software

Using manual processes for unemployment claims management can lead to limited access to data, poor data integrity, increased number of errors, low customer service, and various system failures. On the other side, outsourcing unemployment claims allows employers to efficiently monitor and control unemployment claims, appeal unfavorable decisions, implement new laws and regulations quickly and accurately, and lower unemployment tax rate. In addition to this, they can save time with pre-populated hearing requests and receive complete hearing representation as well as administrative assistance regarding all hearing documentation. Consequently, employers can significantly increase their chances of winning unemployment hearings.

Reducing Unemployment Claims Costs

Effectively managing the risks of unemployment claims is the most important part of unemployment insurance compliance. Despite of their time exhaustive nature, employers can ensure winning unemployment hearings by taking specific steps. As a result, they can reduce state tax liability and positively impact their bottom line.

The burden of proof to demonstrate the employee’s ineligibility for unemployment benefits lies solely on employers. Therefore, it is critical for them to become familiar with laws regarding eligibility in different states, and to ensure that employee policy violations, performance issues and misconduct are documented in writing. In addition to this, with an unemployment claims solution, employers can improve compliance and the overall handling of UI claims by ensuring maximum precision within claim responses, timely and detailed responses to state inquiries, and support with every aspect of processing claims and hearing representation.

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