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Whether you’ve attended numerous unemployment hearings or you’re about to attend your first, the process can be intimidating. You may feel very confident in the details of the claimant’s separation. Still, during the course of the hearing, the Hearing Officer asks questions in an odd order, or the claimant disrupts your testimony and throws off your thought process. There may also be some parts of the hearing process that you just don’t feel comfortable with or how to best address. We’re going to give you four pointers here to help make sure you present your very best case and have the best chance to get a favorable outcome.

  1. Create a timeline for your reference – This is not something formal that needs to be submitted to the Hearing Officer or claimant for the hearing. This is just a quick timeline of the critical dates related to the claimant’s separation strictly for your reference during the hearing. This includes things like dates of warnings, when a relevant policy was updated or distributed, discussions with the claimant regarding concerns with their work performance, dates when the claimant brought forward concerns, dates of email communication, etc. With a timeline in front of you during the hearing, you can check off every relevant point, and when the Hearing Officer gives you the open-ended, final question “Is there anything that you would like to add?”, you have a visual reminder of the points you wanted to cover and can address any that may have been missed.
  2. Prepare the basic employment data – One of the most common mistakes we see during an unemployment hearing is a witness being absolutely ready to discuss the separation incident, warnings, and policies, but they aren’t ready to answer the Hearing Officer’s first questions. At the outset of testimony, the Hearing Officer will ask for some or all of the following basic employment information: the claimant’s dates of employment, job title, whether they were full or part-time, last supervisor, and ending rate of pay. While it doesn’t break your case if you must look this information up, it just gets the hearing off to a bumpy start. Have the basics available to set the right tone with the Hearing Officer!
  3. Be considerate of cross-examination questions – If you are attending a hearing without a representative, the Hearing Officer will ask for one of the employer’s attendees to be identified as the main spokesperson for the employer. When the Hearing Officer finishes asking their questions of the claimant or any additional employer witnesses, they will give the main spokesperson the opportunity to ask any additional/ cross-examination questions they have. The most important thing to remember is that cross-examination is available but not required. You do not want to ask questions for the sake of asking questions. If there is a relevant point on your timeline that was not addressed by the Hearing Officer’s questions, absolutely ask questions, but always keep in mind that most Hearing Officers have been conducting hearings many times a day for many years. When they are done with their questions, there is usually no cross-examination necessary. “No, thank you” is an acceptable answer to the offer of asking questions.
  4. “Less is more” with a closing statement – Once the Hearing Officer has asked all the questions they feel are relevant to both parties, they will give both sides an opportunity to make a closing statement. What you need to keep in mind is the Hearing Officer is going to make their decision on the evidence and testimony that has already been provided before this point in the hearing. They do not want anyone to try and recap or restate their entire case, so “less is more” is always the strategy we encourage. Our recommendation is to make one of two very brief statements. If you don’t want to be completely adversarial with your former (or current) employee, it is acceptable to say, “No, thank you. We will stand on the testimony provided.” If you want to make a very brief statement of the company’s position, you can say, “Based on the evidence and testimony provided, we feel that Mr./Ms. Jones should not be found eligible for unemployment benefits.” The claimant will be given the same opportunity and may try to restate their position or even add new testimony during their closing statement. This ends up frustrating the Hearing Officer and works in the employer’s favor.

These pointers address some of the most common feedback we receive after a hearing or during a preparation discussion prior to an unemployment hearing. If you would like some additional information on the hearing process and what you may want to have available, check out CCC UI University.


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