The unemployment claims process may have up to three levels of determination – the initial claim level, the unemployment hearing level and the board of review level. There are general guidelines and best practices to be followed at each of the three levels. We are focusing this month on best practices at the second level, the unemployment hearing.
An often-overlooked best practice for prevailing at an unemployment hearing occurs at the initial claim level. That is, it is best to always respond completely and with as much detail as possible to the state’s initial request for separation information, making the best effort to win at the initial level. It is more difficult to overturn an unfavorable initial level claim at a hearing than it is to simply earn an affirmation of an already favorable initial level decision. However, despite best efforts, unemployment hearings will take place, so it is helpful to be prepared for that eventuality. Here are some of the most important elements to focus on:
When a hearing notice is received, it is important to read the notice thoroughly to make sure you fully 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 contact information as well as the contact information for your witnesses. If you have full hearings representation through Employers Group, then we manage these details on your behalf.
Don’t skip the pre-hearing conference with your Hearing Representative. This is an important meeting during which you will have the opportunity to ask your Hearing Representative questions, prepare for you and your witnesses’ testimony, and review all the relevant documentation that will be discussed during the hearing. If you are not using the services of a Hearing Representative, it is still a good idea to have a meeting before the hearing with all the people from your organization that will be attending to make sure that everyone understands the process and their role in the hearing.
Deciding who should attend the hearing is a matter of great importance. This should be the individual(s) with the most first-hand knowledge concerning the claimant’s separation, such as the claimant’s manager or supervisor. Second-hand testimony, also known as hearsay testimony, will not be considered as credible. Lack of first-hand witness participation is a primary reason for unfavorable outcomes at unemployment hearings.
When preparing for a hearing, be sure to gather all relevant documents pertaining to the separation (disciplinary records, policy statements, handbooks, witness statements, attendance records, etc.). Ideally, these documents were already submitted at the initial protest level. If not, it is imperative to have them for the hearing. Copies will generally need to be provided ahead of time to the Hearing Officer and all parties listed on the hearing notice. Failure to do so may result in the Hearing Officer disallowing the documents from being considered as evidence to the separation. When Employers Group is providing hearing representation services the distribution of these documents will be coordinated by the hearing representative.
If you have additional questions regarding the hearings process, your Employers Group team can help to guide you by answering questions or providing hearings representation for you. Contact us at ServiceOne@EmployersGroup.com or (800) 748-8484 today.