What to Do When an Employer Contests Unemployment Benefits

Long Line of People at Unemployment Office after having their benefits contested by their ex-employer
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Imagine what you would do if an ex-employer contested your claim for unemployment benefits and you were denied payment due to their challenge. In most cases, the company contests your claim because they don’t believe you are eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Some typical reasons for unemployment disqualification include when an employee is fired for cause, when the employee quits a job by their own accord, or when they were considered a contractor rather than an employee.

Of course, you never expect to lose your job or to need to apply for unemployment benefits. If you find yourself in this situation, you may be surprised to find your ex-employer contesting your claim.

It can be beneficial if you are someone who keeps careful, complete records of events and correspondence at work. You will be better prepared if your employment situation changes unexpectedly if you have documentation available to support your interests.

What Is Unemployment?

Unemployment is a state and federal support system for employees who are temporarily out of work. The system pays benefits from funds collected in taxes on the employer. In most cases, the employee does not pay into the system. The amount of unemployment tax an employer pays is based on how often they send employees into the system. So, in an effort to prevent them from being charged a higher rate, an employer may contest or challenge an employee's claim for benefits.

Employees file documentation with their state's unemployment office either in person or online. Each state will have its own process for beginning the process. Information required includes names and addresses of employers and the dates of employment. Each state sets a requirement for the time a job must be held and the total of wages the employee had to earn. States also set the no-fault conditions that qualify for you losing a job and will allow you to be eligible to receive benefits.

Employers will receive notification of a claim filed against them. They will be able to read the information presented by the ex-worker and disagree with any items listed. Any description the employee listed of events leading up to the end of the job will also be included in the claim summary the employer receives.

When Your Unemployment Claim Is Contested

If your employer contests your claim for unemployment, your case will be reviewed by an investigator from your State Department of Labor. The investigator will analyze the information provided by the employer and may interview the employer to gather additional insight.

You may be contacted by phone or asked to come to the office and answer some questions about the circumstances surrounding your separation from the job. Make sure that you respond quickly, thoroughly and honestly to any requests for information. The assigned staff from the unemployment office will then determine whether or not you are eligible for benefits.

If you are accepted for benefits, the employer can still request a hearing to appeal the decision. If you are denied benefits, you will receive a written notification of that decision which will include information regarding your appeals process and the deadline for filing an appeal.

The Unemployment Appeals Process

The appeals process will vary by state. Contact your State Unemployment Office for a determination on your specific circumstances and how appeals are handled in your state. The information can usually be found on the state unemployment website, but don’t hesitate to contact the office with any questions or if you need clarification.

In general, here's how it works:

  • A legal representative can accompany you to the hearing and provide advice, but you will be required to present your case.
  • You can bring witnesses who might counter any claims that the employer may be making as grounds for denying benefits. Your employer can also bring witnesses to support their position.
  • Be sure to bring copies of any documentation that might be used to negate claims by your employer of misconduct.
  • You must continue to file weekly claims throughout the appeals process if you wish to receive benefits for those weeks.

How to Protect Your Claim

The more documentation you can provide to support your claim for unemployment benefits, the more likely you will be to prove your eligibility. You should assemble any doctor’s notes, emails, human resources files, letters from supervisors and colleagues and any other supporting evidence of the legitimacy of your claim.

Your employer will be required to do the same, and the appeals board will make a determination of whose claim will prevail. Both parties are allowed to appeal the decision, and the appeals board will determine the outcome during a hearing. You will need to attend every meeting, or have a written legitimate excuse, or you risk your case being thrown out.

Be sure to file your appeal within the deadline, and continue to file for benefits while the appeals process plays out, or you will not receive benefits during that time.

The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.