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Have you ever filed a protest to an unemployment claim and felt that it was a no-brainer, slam-dunk case because you had all of your ducks and details in a row and submitted to the state well before their deadline, just to get a decision back that has granted benefits with seemingly little weight, time, or attention given to the information you had so painstakingly compiled? Me too.

While it may seem like enough to throw your hands up and say, “I give up”, there is always an opportunity to appeal the state’s determination at least one time.

Keep in mind, when the adjudicators at the state agency are reviewing the information, there are several things that could happen to result in a surprising unfavorable determination. While the jargon and acronyms in your documentation are likely commonplace for you, the specific adjudicator reviewing the case may have no prior exposure to the terms used or even your industry in general and just can’t wrap their head around what occurred. There also can be a wide difference between adjudicators at the state agency. You could provide the exact same case to two adjudicators and get different outcomes. How do I know that? I’ve actually seen it happen. I provided a detailed response to a claim which was accidentally sent to two different adjudicators who reviewed the case. One issued a determination that disqualified the claimant; the other issued a determination that found them qualified. Also, keep in mind that if there is ever any doubt in the case of a discharge, the state’s default position is to allow benefits.

The remedy available to this is to file an appeal to the initial determination and request that a hearing is scheduled. Why you may ask? First and foremost, unemployment benefits that are paid out and charged against your unemployment account can negatively affect your unemployment tax rate and bottom line. The longer an employee worked for you, the more potential benefit charges in play on a claim. While reviewing the maximum potential liability on the current claim can be a consideration on whether to appeal a determination, it can be important to consider an additional factor. Even though there could be little to no liability on a current unemployment claim, the former employee can go to work for another employer, separate from that employment in the future, file a new claim, and your unemployment account can be on the hook for a portion of the benefits on their new claim as well. In most states, they will only adjudicate a separation one time, meaning if you do not appeal an unfavorable decision on the claim in front of you today, you would be liable with no right to protest if the same separation falls within the base period of a future claim.

Finally, when filing an appeal to an unfavorable determination, you should gather the information that you will need and put the first-hand witnesses that you would want to participate on notice that a hearing date will be scheduled in the near future. Many state agencies do not have long required notice periods from the date a hearing notice is mailed out until the hearing can be scheduled. Some state laws require as little as five days! It is quite common that you will have a week or less to prepare. Having the information and witnesses identified in advance ensures that you will have the best chance of having a determination overturned on appeal.


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