When seeking unemployment compensation, persistence is key
By Scaringi & Scaringi P.C.
Losing a job is one of life’s biggest disruptions. It can throw otherwise hard-driving, ambitious people off their game, to the point of rolling over at the first rejection in their bid for unemployment compensation.
But it’s a big mistake not to appeal an initial denial of benefits.
An unemployment compensation appeal and the resulting hearing represent a claimant’s best chance of receiving the benefits he is entitled to as he pieces together his professional life.
An employer’s word often carries the day at the initial stage
The first step in the claims process is called the determination stage. This is when an employer is notified that a former employee has filed a claim. The employer is given an opportunity to provide input regarding the reason a claimant is “unemployed.” If an employer represents that the claimant has been terminated for cause, or has voluntarily resigned or abandoned his or her employment, the UC initial claims examiner likely will deny the claim on this information alone.
It is often only through the appeal process, during a hearing before a UC referee, that the former employee’s side can be effectively presented and successfully argued, resulting in the ultimate grant of UC benefits.
A UC hearing takes a closer look at the facts
Unemployment claims can be denied if the employer can show “willful misconduct’’ or that the employee’s leaving was a “voluntary quit.’’
In some cases an employer may say the firing was the result of the employee violating a work rule. The mere fact that an employer has such a rule may trigger the initial claim denial.
But an initial denial based on “willful misconduct’’ can be overturned if, during the appeal hearing, the employee can provide documentary and testimonial evidence showing the employer rarely, if ever, terminates employees for violating the rule in question. Showing that the violation was caused by circumstances beyond the employee’s control is another defense.
There are also times when an employee might resign or abandon his or her employment, but with very good reason. If the reasons are compelling, then benefits will not be denied because of a “voluntary quit.’’
A common example is an employee leaving due to sexual harassment. In this scenario, the employee’s separation from employment is considered by UC law to have been forced and therefore not “voluntary” at all. If sufficient documentary and/or testimonial evidence is presented at the hearing, benefits can and should be granted.
A common thread running through the UC claim process is the concept of “fault.” UC law was created as a fault-based entitlement program.
This means the decision on UC benefits is, very generally, based on a determination of whether an employee was at fault in causing his unemployment. But often requires a hearing to get to the bottom of who is at fault. This is why it’s important to have an attorney with experience in employment law on your side.
Should the hearing result in a denial of benefits, there is yet another layer in the appeal process that allows for an administrative review by the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (UCBR). There is no cost for a UCBR appeal of the decision reached after a hearing. The UCBR conducts an independent review of the hearing process, evaluating whether the hearing was fair and the decision reached was legally justified.
From the UCBR decision, yet another appeal is available to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, an intermediate appellate court.
At Scaringi & Scaringi, P.C., our attorneys have had success at every layer of the appeal process. That’s why any UC claimant is well advised to not give up until all avenues of appeal are exhausted.