Unemployment benefits can help to provide temporary monetary support if you lose your job through no fault of your own — many workers rely on these benefits to make ends meet. If you were wrongfully denied unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania, you may have the option to file an appeal. In the event you prevail, you will receive benefits retroactive from the date an eligibility determination would have been made in your favor.
An unemployment appeal is a request made to the Office of Unemployment Compensation to reverse an adverse eligibility determination. Notably, there are several reasons unemployment claims may be denied. These can include the following:
However, even if your claim was denied on one of the above grounds, you may still be eligible to file an appeal. For example, if you can establish that you left your job due to necessitous and compelling circumstances, you might still be able to receive unemployment benefits. If your claim was denied because the Office of Unemployment Compensation found that you did not accept an offer of suitable employment, you may be able to show that the work was not, in fact, suitable. Additionally, if your employer alleged you were terminated due to employee misconduct, you may be able to refute their claim — not all actions leading to termination are disqualifying.
If your application for unemployment benefits is denied, you have 21 days from the date the determination was mailed to file an appeal. The document can be submitted by mail, fax, or in person. In your appeal, you must briefly explain why you believe you are eligible to receive unemployment benefits, and the denial should not be upheld.
Critically, an employer also has the right to file an appeal to contest your eligibility to receive unemployment benefits — they must follow the same appeal procedures as an employee.
After you file your appeal, you will receive a case number and a Notice of Hearing that provides you with the date for an administrative hearing. The notice will also inform you whether the hearing will take place in person or by phone. Importantly, there are no judges or juries for unemployment appeals — the hearing will be conducted by an Unemployment Compensation Referee who will hear the issues relevant to the case and render a decision on them.
At the unemployment appeal hearing, the referee may ask you a number of questions, evaluate your evidence, and review your documentation. Your employer will also have an opportunity to present their argument, and each party will be given the chance to question the other — as well as any witnesses — under oath. However, the first issue that will be addressed by the referee at your hearing will be whether the appeal was timely filed. If you failed to file the appeal within the timeframe required under Pennsylvania law, the referee must decide whether good cause exists to excuse the untimely filing.
Once the hearing has concluded, it is unlikely that the referee will make an immediate determination on the case. Usually, they will draft a written decision and mail it to the parties. If you win your appeal, there is nothing further you must do. You will receive your first benefits payment within a few weeks and weekly thereafter. But if you lose, you have 15 days from the date the referee’s decision was mailed to file an appeal with the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review.
It’s crucial to be well-prepared for an unemployment appeal hearing. You should take the time to carefully compile any documents and other evidence that is pertinent to your case. Documentation may include things like letters, business records, emails, phone records, texts, and anything else that is relevant to establish the facts of your claim. If the documents are in the possession of your former employer, you may be able to get a subpoena to obtain them.
In some cases, witness testimony from someone with knowledge regarding the facts of your case can be advantageous to proving your position. If you are unable to get a witness to testify voluntarily, a subpoena can compel them to do so. You must request that the Office of Unemployment issue this document. Once it has been issued, it is your responsibility to serve it upon the witness.
Unemployment appeals can be challenging to win. Some larger Pittsburgh employers, particularly healthcare systems, almost always bring an experienced unemployment compensation advocate to a referee hearing. An experienced attorney will order and review the unemployment compensation file, assess whether your claim is valid, and, present your claim in the best light, and highlight weaknesses in the employer’s case through cross-examination.
If the employer’s evidence is inadmissible, a knowledgeable unemployment compensation attorney can keep potentially damaging information from being considered.
Located in Pittsburgh, Stember Cohn & Davidson-Welling LLC provides high-quality representation to clients in all industries for unemployment matters throughout Western Pennsylvania. Call (412) 338-1445 or contact us to schedule a no-fee consultation.