Contesting Unemployment? Is the appeal process fair to both parties?
I am getting ready to make a third appearance in front of a law judge. The issue before him is to determine if my client is able to collect unemployment. When she presented her situation to me several months ago, it was clear that there was something stinky about her termination.
The company says she was terminated “for cause” which automatically denies her the right to collect unemployment in her state (this is not a NY case).
I think her termination was not “for cause” and that it might be for something different, in fact I wrote about it on April 28th. It is hard to believe the process started that long ago.
The company where she was employed uses a third party service, U.C. Express to administer and contest their unemployment claims. Using this service may end up being the company’s fatal flaw.
Each time we have been in front of the law judge, the company and the third party administrator has ignored fulfilling the subpoena requirements.
Witnesses have not appeared. Documents and tapes have not been produced.
We are not asking for something extra-ordinary. Each request we make asks the company to show or prove the basis and facts for their decision – which is written in the investigative report they submitted as evidence.
Typically, when a company terminates someone “for cause” it should be reviewed by their attorney or human resources to ensure the decision is sound and defensible. The company in question is not a small mom and pop shop, it is a major company listed on the NASDAQ with monthly sales in excess of $5 billion.
An attorney not affiliated with this case tells me it should never gone past the first meeting. “If the company failed to put on their defense, the law judge should have ruled in favor of the appellant” he says shaking his head.
For this state’s unemployment hearing guidelines, a case should be heard and decided within 45 minutes. To date, we have spent three hours with the law judge and company representatives in closed meetings. This does not take in account the hours spent preparing for each session.
Why does the unemployment system allow for repeated hearings? A colleague points to the company stalling – hoping the appellant will drop her appeal. It is interesting to note that U.C. Express is a service of TALX.
The company is not in the driver seat though, it is the law judge that continues the case, giving the company and U.C. Express yet another chance to produce evidence.
It begs the question, should we be allowing a third party to create arbitrary delays? I would venture if an ex-employee appealing the decision told the law judge he or she needed more time, the request would be denied.
Companies have significantly more resources to prepare their case. It should be easy to produce if someone was competent at their job. Employing delay tactics by appealing cases that fail to meet the litmus test for sound decisions will cost the company more money in the long run.
The average person appealing their unemployment compensation denial is doing it by themselves. Their ability to put on a good defense is handicapped by not knowing the legal system or how to present a case.
This is one of the reasons I am helping her in this case. I know what should have been done on the company side. I know what questions to ask. In the end, she will have a transcript of the company’s failure to prove that she did what they said she did.
An option is to engage an attorney or legal aid, though some states limit the amount of fees that a professional can charge to assist in these cases. By default, the case may not get the attention it needs to be successful, especially when the case may be complicated or thwarted with multiple delays.
What kind of experiences have you had with trying to appeal a case through the Unemployment system? Have you had experiences with U.C. Express or TALX? What are the best practices where both parties have a fair and speedy determination?