After you file a claim for unemployment benefits, the state unemployment agency will decide whether you are eligible. It will review the information you provide, interview your previous employer, and perhaps interview you. If the agency finds that you are eligible, you will soon start filing claim forms and collecting your benefits.
This isn't always the end of the story, however. Your former employer has the right to appeal the agency's decision that you are eligible for benefits.
Why an Employer Might Appeal
Unemployment benefits are funded by taxes paid by employers. When an employer first starts paying into the unemployment system, it is taxed at a "new employer" rate, based only on how many employees it has. After a few years, the employer will be assigned an experience rating, which depends on how many of its employees have filed for and received unemployment benefits. The more unemployment claims against an employer, the more it will have to pay.
This gives employers an incentive to avoid claims if they can. If your former employer believes you aren't entitled to benefits, it may well decide to file an appeal, to keep its experience rating as low as possible.
Grounds for Appeal
To win an appeal, your former employer will have to show that you are not eligible for benefits. The most common arguments an employer might make are:
- You voluntarily quit your job, without good cause. Each state defines good cause differently. If the employer can prove that you chose to leave your job, without a compelling reason that fits within your state's definition, it may win on appeal. (For information on good cause to quit, see Unemployment Eligibility After Quitting.)
- You were fired for serious misconduct. If your employer can show that it fired you for serious misconduct as your state defines it, you won't be eligible for benefits. (For more information, see Can I Get Unemployment If I Was Fired?)
- You didn't have sufficient earnings and/or work history. In every state, employees must have some recent work history (as measured by wages, time, or both) to be eligible for unemployment. (See What Are the Earnings Requirements for Unemployment?)
The Appeal Process
If your employer files an appeal, you will be notified. There will be a hearing, by phone or in person, at which both of you can present evidence and argue your side of the story. Make sure to collect and present all documents and other evidence that supports your eligibility. For example, if your employer claims that you didn't meet the state's earnings requirements, you might present your pay stubs, direct deposit notices, or evidence from your bank of the amount of wages you were paid and the date you received them.
While you are waiting for the hearing and the decision afterward, continue filing your weekly claim forms. Once your state's unemployment agency has found you eligible for benefits, you are entitled to keep receiving them until someone rules otherwise.
No matter who wins the appeal, the loser has the right to appeal further, either within the state unemployment agency or to the state court system.