If you have been denied unemployment insurance benefits, you have the right to have that decision reviewed at a hearing. If you are an employer and have received a decision allowing benefits to one of your former employees, you also have the right to request a hearing.
The hearing is your opportunity to present your side of the story. An Employment Department hearing is a fact-finding hearing, which is conducted by an administrative law judge, sometimes referred to as an “ALJ” for short. It is the ALJ’s job to consider and review all the facts presented at the hearing and reach a new decision. The judge’s decision will be based on the information at the hearing that you have an opportunity to participate in. The decision is completely independent of the earlier decision that was reached without a hearing. You may choose to be represented by an attorney for the hearing.
How do you request a hearing?
A form for requesting a hearing will be mailed to you along with the administrative decision granting or denying unemployment insurance benefits. To request a hearing, you may mail or fax that form to the Office of Administrative Hearings or to the UI Center, or you may call the UI Center. You can also request a hearing by sending a letter. If you request the hearing in a letter, your letter must state clearly that you are requesting a hearing. It should also include your Social Security number or Customer Identification Number, the administrative decision number, and the mailing date of the administrative decision you would like reviewed.
You must request a hearing within 20 days of the date the administrative decision is mailed to you. Find the mailing date at the bottom of the last page of the administrative decision. There it will also give the deadline to respond to the decision. Whether your request is filed on time will be determined by a received stamp if delivered in person; by the postmarked date if mailed; by the encoded date on the document if faxed; or by a date stamp made by the agent receiving the call if you request your hearing by phone. If your request is late, you may lose your right to a hearing unless you can show that the delay was for good cause. Be sure to complete and return any additional forms that are requested.
When and where will the hearing be held?
After a hearing is requested, the Office of Administrative Hearings will send you a Notice of Hearing. The Notice of Hearing will show the date, time and location of the hearing and will state which issues will be decided at the hearing. You also may receive a pamphlet entitled “Your Employment Department Hearing: How to Prepare & Present Your Case.” Read the pamphlet carefully and contact the Office of Administrative Hearings if you have questions about it.
If you will need an interpreter or other accommodation, indicate this in your request for hearing or notify the Office of Administrative Hearings immediately. If needed, an interpreter or other reasonable accommodation will be provided at no cost to you.
The Office of Administrative Hearings holds most hearings by telephone conference call. Follow the instructions on your Notice of Hearing to participate. For many hearings, you dial a local or toll-free number and enter a code to participate in a conference call. Sometimes the ALJ will call you at the time set for the hearing. If the ALJ is to call you, be sure that you have no call-blocking features on your phone and keep the line open at the time set for the hearing. If you have been unable to connect to the conference call or if neither an administrative law judge nor a representative from the Office of Administrative Hearings has appeared within five minutes of the scheduled start time of your hearing, call the Office of Administrative Hearings immediately at the number provided on your Notice of Hearing. If you delay, your request for hearing may be dismissed.
If you cannot attend the hearing on the date scheduled, you may request a postponement by calling the Office of Administrative Hearings. Be sure to call as soon as you become aware of the need to postpone the hearing. A postponement will be granted only for good cause. “Good cause” means that the need for postponement is caused by circumstances beyond your control and failure to grant the postponement would result in an undue hardship. If the hearing is not rescheduled and you do not appear, your request for hearing may be dismissed. Even if you were not the one who requested the hearing, it is still important that you attend. If you do not participate in the hearing you may not get another chance to tell your side of the story, and, if the original administrative decision was in your favor, it may be reversed.
How to prepare for the hearing
Preparation is important because you may not get another chance to present evidence or testify. Although further appeals may be available, these appeals are generally based upon the evidence introduced at the hearing and not new information. The hearing is your chance to present your case.
The first thing to do in preparing for a hearing is to become familiar with the issues to be decided at the hearing. These are listed on the Notice of Hearing. Most hearings deal with one of the following issues:
whether a claimant had good cause to quit work;
whether the claimant was discharged for misconduct; or
whether a claimant is able to work, is available for work and is actively seeking work.
If documents are mailed to you with the Notice of Hearing, all parties and the ALJ will have them. Any additional written material that you want the judge to consider must be provided to the ALJ and to all other parties before the hearing. Only evidence related to the issues listed in the Notice of Hearing will be allowed. This may include letters, emails, timecards, photos, or other documents that help to support your case. As soon as you receive the Notice of Hearing, send copies of documents to the administrative law judge and the parties at the addresses on the Notice of Hearing. If you do not provide copies of your documents to the other party or parties before the hearing, the ALJ may decide not to consider them. If you believe documents in the employer’s or someone else’s possession would be critical to your case, and if you have been unable to obtain them after reasonable attempts, you may request a subpoena for documents. You will have to explain what evidence you expect to obtain and why it is important. If a subpoena is approved, itwill be sent to you and you will have to serve it.
You may call witnesses to support your case. You should interview your witnesses before the hearing to make sure their testimony supports your position. If a witness is necessary to explain something important in your case but is not willing to testify, you may request a subpoena ordering the witness to appear at the hearing. Call the Office of Administrative Hearings immediately to ask for a subpoena.
What happens at a hearing?
The ALJ in the case will begin by discussing the issues involved and then will take testimony, under oath. Each side will have an opportunity to explain his or her case and present witnesses. Tell the ALJ at the beginning of the hearing if you have witnesses who you want to testify. Each side is given the opportunity to ask questions of all witnesses who testify. The ALJ also will ask questions. After both sides have presented their case and there is nothing more to add, the judge will end the hearing.
What happens after the hearing?
The ALJ will not make a decision at the hearing but will issue a written decision after the hearing. Usually, the decision is issued within two weeks. The decision will have a summary of the facts of the case and will explain the reasons for the ALJ’s decision.
What if you disagree with the ALJ’s Decision?
If you believe that the ALJ made an error in ruling on your case, you may request review by the Employment Appeals Board. Instructions for filing a request for review will be included with the decision.
Legal editor: Angela Ferrer, March 2016.