Employment Law Attorneys
They Denied My Unemployment Claim…Now What?

They Denied My Unemployment Claim…Now What?

The good news is that the enhanced unemployment benefits available in response to COVID-19 provide unprecedented and supplemental financial relief to employees. The bad news is that you applied for these generous benefits, but you have received a denial from the CTDOL.  So now what are your options? First, you must believe that the determination denying your benefits was in some way erroneous. Perhaps certain information was missing or reported incorrectly, or perhaps the fact finder at the CTDOL just made an improper or misguided determination. Regardless of the reason for the denial, if you believe the decision was WRONG, then you should take the next steps to reverse the decision and get your benefits as soon as possible. In almost all instances, if an unemployment determination is reversed, you will get your full benefits retroactively, assuming you continue to file weekly claims. So, what is the process for getting the CTDOL to reconsider your application and approve your benefits? This same process would be filed in all other states, but check your state department of labor website by using the following LINK.

YOU MUST FILE AN APPEAL:

You have 21 days after the date of the DOL’s written decision to file your appeal. Here are the different ways you can file your appeal:

  • File by mail, fax, or online at www.ctdol.state.ct.us/appeals/apfrmnt.htm.
  • Fill out an appeal form. You can get a blank form at an American Job Center or an Appeals Division office.
  • Write a letter. Include your name, address, social security number, date of the fact finder’s decision, and the reason you think the decision is wrong.

It is critical that you keep meticulous written records and copies of everything involving your appeal. In addition, we advise that you continue to file your weekly claim, even though the determination has been made to deny unemployment benefits because if you win the appeal, you will only get money for the weeks you filed a claim. It is also important that you file the appeal within the 21 days or you may be barred from having your appeal heard unless you can convince the CTDOL that you had good cause or reason to have missed the 21 day filing period.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT:

Unemployment appeals will result in a hearing. While we are in unchartered waters given the overload of unemployment applications in response to COVID-19, it still appears that the hearing appeal process used by the DOL before COVID remains in place.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR UNEMPLOYMENT APPEAL HEARING:

A hearing is almost like a mini trial conducted  by a “referee.” These hearings are usually done in person at the offices of the CTDOL, but given current circumstances, they will likely be conducted for the foreseeable future by phone or some other video conference technology such as Zoom. In addition, unemployment appeal hearings are almost always completed in a day or less.

Once you file your appeal, the Appeals Division will mail you a notice with the date, time, and place of your hearing as well as the issues the referee will ask about. If you do not get this notice within 30 days, you should contact the Appeals Division. You should also contact the Appeals Division if you need to change the date or if you require an interpreter, or if you have any other questions, hardships, or concerns. Again, under normal times, the Appeals Division has been very approachable and responsive, but with COVID, the process might not be as user friendly as it’s been in the past.

PREPARING FOR YOUR HEARING:

While applying for unemployment benefits is something that most people are able to do on their own and without counsel, we do advise that you consult with an attorney related to your appeal hearing and ideally that you have an attorney present with you at your appeal hearing. Because unemployment benefits have been so greatly expanded in response to COVID-19, there is a lot more money at stake. You want to win this appeal and employment attorneys will be able to prepare you and represent you at the hearing in order to increase the likelihood of success.

With or without counsel, you will want to prepare for the hearing by organizing and bringing with you all the documents, exhibits and other evidence to support your case. Such evidence or documents might include any communications regarding the separation from your employment, your earnings, the circumstances surrounding your change in employment status, personnel records etc. These documents will be presented by you and examined by the referee at the hearing. In addition, you are the party witness to your appeal and you will be sworn in and questioned. However, you are entitled to bring supporting witnesses to the hearing and if that is the case, you should be prepared with a list of questions for that witness that will help support your position. You may also want to prepare a list of questions to ask the employer’s witness. In most instances, the referee will ask the witness questions, but you may be given a chance to question the witness yourself in order to cover anything that the referee might have missed. In addition, you should be prepared with some sort of a written “opening and closing statement” as the referee may ask at the beginning and then again at the end if you have any opening or closing remarks. Of course, these are all tasks that ideally would be done by your counsel if you have one present with you at the hearing.

HEARING TIPS:

  • Arrive 20 minutes early
  • Bring pen and paper
  • Be organized
  • Bring prepared notes and documents
  • Stay calm, demonstrate respect for the referee and do not interrupt or speak until it is your turn
  • Be persuasive
  • Be honest
  • Be prepared

AFTER THE HEARING:

The referee will take some time to review what was stated and presented at the hearing and will usually render a decision within 2-4 weeks. The referee’s decision will be mailed to you, however, in light of COVID-19, it is possible decisions may be emailed. So be certain to check both in the weeks following your hearing. If you win the appeal, you should continue to file, and the checks will follow. However, if you lose the appeal, you are permitted to APPEAL the appeal. You need to file that appeal with the Board of Review in person, by fax or by mail. This further appeal process requires you to submit a statement in support of your position and to explain why you believe the appeal hearing determination was erroneous. Again, this is a task best done by experienced employment attorney, but if you are going to do this yourself, it is important that you read the referee’s decision carefully and identify any mistakes in the decision or the reasoning behind the decision. You are also permitted to include with your statement any additional “proof” or other information that was not available to you at the time of your appeal hearing. The board will read and review your statement and make a decision based on your statement. You will most likely not be granted another hearing, so that is why it is so important that your appeal statement must be persuasive, compelling and legally sound. After all, this is your last chance to get those unemployment checks!

For more information about this article or to speak to one of our Employment Lawyers, please contact Carey & Associates, P.C. at 203-255-4150 or by email to info@capclaw.com.

Hours Reduced or Laid Off Because of Coronavirus? File for Unemployment Benefits!

Hours Reduced or Laid Off Because of Coronavirus? File for Unemployment Benefits!

By Liz Swedock

Massive layoffs are not only coming, they are already here.  Multiple news outlets are reporting that well over 52,000 people have filed for unemployment benefits in Connecticut over only the last few days (ordinarily it would be a few hundred over the same time period, so this is a massive increase).

So what are your options if you are terminated from your job or have your hours reduced? I’ll try to address some of the basic questions, however be aware that the state is actively considering potential modifications to these rules as the coronavirus / COVID-19 epidemic continues, so stay up to date.

Who is eligible for unemployment?  If you have been fired, laid off, or had your hours reduced due to no fault of your own, odds are that you are eligible to collect unemployment benefits.  This includes both salaried employees and hourly-basis employees.  “Fault of your own” means that you lost your job due to your own “willful misconduct,” which includes things such as committing a crime at work, stealing from work, or failing a drug or alcohol test required by law.  Eligibility requires you to be available for work, so if you are sick or otherwise unable to return to work, you might not be able to collect benefits.

If eligible, how much can you collect?  In Connecticut, the maximum benefit is 26 weeks (6 months) and up to $642 per week.  Your benefit amount is equal to the average amount you made over the highest two quarters in the previous year, divided by 26.  Claims take about one week to get processed, but might take longer due to the currently unprecedent number of people filing for unemployment.

What if your hours have been reduced but you haven’t technically been fired – can you collect unemployment?  Often, yes.

This is extremely important during the current COVID-19 crisis.  The rule in Connecticut is that if an employee is not employed “to the same extent” that he or she was employed over the previous year, that individual can be eligible for unemployment.  What is “not the same extent”?  It’s not 100% clear.  This determination will have to be made on a case-by-case basis.  However, if your job has been suspended – including if you have been told by your employer to stay home and not come to work while not getting paid – you are likely eligible to collect unemployment.

If your hours have been reduced, but not eliminated, you can still be eligible for partial unemployment.

This includes if you worked more than one job and one (or both) jobs reduced your hours, or if you were a full-time employee and your employer changed you to part-time.

Lastly, if you are denied unemployment benefits, be aware that you will have the option to appeal.  The Department of Labor is going to be overwhelmed with the sheer volume of current applicants, and we cannot expect them to be error-free.  If you think you should have been granted benefits, don’t give up if you get denied.

For more information on whether you are eligible for unemployment benefits, you should review guidance issued by the Connecticut Department of Labor (CT DOL) on March 13, 2020, which is available here: http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/DOLCOVIDFAQ.PDF .

The bottom line is don’t leave money on the table! If there is any chance that you are eligible to collect benefits, you should file a claim and be prepared to explain your individual situation.  Claims can be filed online here: www.filectui.com .  There is no penalty if you file a claim and it turns out you are not eligible.

If you have questions or concerns about this article, please contact one of our employment attorneys at Carey & Associates, P.C. at 203-255-4150 or by email at info@capclaw.com.

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