Unemployment Compensation Appeals from a Referee Decision Denying Benefits

If at all possible, you should always be represented by an attorney at your initial hearing before the referee. This is because any appeal of an unfavorable decision which has denied you benefits will be based solely upon the testimony and documents produced at the hearing. The Board of Review will not hold another hearing.

If you failed to submit documents or you failed to properly question the employer’s witnesses, it will be extremely difficult to get the Board of Review to reverse the Referee’s decision. However, if you decide to appeal to the Board of Review, here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. You are called the “Claimant”
  2. Different Legal issues determine who has what is called the “burden of proof”. Burden of proof refers most generally to the obligation of a party to prove its allegations at trial. For example, if you are fired for willful misconduct, the employer has the burden of proof to prove that your conduct was “willful” as opposed to just negligent or if you quit, you have the burden of proving to the referee that you quit for “necessitous and compelling reasons”.
  3. Make sure you file a timely appeal. The time frames are listed and your failure to timely appeal will result in automatic dismissal by the Board of Review whether or not the referee was correct or not.
  4. The Referee decision will list the legal issues which support the determination to deny your benefits. The most common issues are willful misconduct and voluntarily quitting.
    1. voluntarily quit without a necessitous and compelling reason
      In arguing against the position that the claimant quit, the claimant would want to point out that the claimant did not have the intent to quit, and, possibly, that the employer itself behaved in such a way that the claimant reasonably interpreted that he or she was fired (i.e. the employer demanded the return of uniforms and keys). Sample Letter We have attached some sample letters which you can use in filing your appeal request .
    2. fired for willful misconduct
      A dispute regarding separation will initially fall upon the claimant to resolve. In such disputes, it is generally more beneficial for the claimant to establish that he or she was fired, because that situation places the burden on the employer to establish a good enough reason for doing so. Sample Letter We have attached some sample letters which you can use in filing your appeal request.
    3. you are unavailable for work
      The claimant has the burden of convincing the Referee that the claimant was in fact able to work, and was available to work, through any week in which the claimant filed for benefits. It should be noted that a claimant does not necessarily need to be able to perform his or her former job; as long as the claimant is able to perform some type of work, the claimant should satisfy this requirement.
  5. Decisions may be based upon the Credibility of the witnesses, and if the Referee found the employer and their witnesses more credible, it will be difficult to get the Board of Review to overturn the decision. In discussing credibility in your argument to the Board of Review, several questions will need to be addressed in your argument to the Board: why does your account make more sense, given other established facts; why is your account supported by evidence; and why is the employer’s account too self-serving?

If you lose at the Board of Review, your next step is an appeal to Commonwealth Court and this process is extremely complicated given that you will need to write a brief and argue case law to support your position. For this reason, it is imperative that you have an attorney.