Florida Unemployment Appeal
If your Florida unemployment benefits claim is denied, you have a right to appeal the decision. There is a process you can initiate to appeal the decision of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
Your Right To Appeal
To collect Reemployment Assistance Benefits (as UI benefits are called in Florida), you must meet certain requirements for eligibility. You must be totally or partially unemployed through termination, layoff, or having your hours reduced. If you were terminated, the termination must be through no fault of your own. You won’t be eligible if you were fired for gross negligence or willful malfeasance. You must also earn at least $4,300 in the first four complete calendar quarters in the last five complete quarters before the quarter in which you file: your base period.
If you do not meet these requirements, you don’t qualify for unemployment, and perhaps should explore other options like workers compensation, SSI, or even SSDI if you are unable to work. But if you were terminated for reasons beyond your control, and you earned at least $4,300 in your base period, you can and should appeal the decision.
Sometimes, the decision may be a total denial of unemployment benefits. And other times, it may be a decision to give you a lower weekly benefit amount (WBA) than you deserve, based on wages from your previous job. Use the Florida unemployment calculator to double check your estimated payment. Whatever the case may be, you will want to take action immediately and file an unemployment appeal.
How To File an Appeal
You must appeal within 20 days of receiving your Reemployment Assistance Eligibility Notice. This is the decision you receive after applying for Florida unemployment. The printed date on this letter will tell you when you must submit your Notice of Appeal Form. When you sign up on the CONNECT system to file your initial claim, you will have access to a portal wherein you can view your Eligibility Notice. You should also have received this notice in the mail.
Note: If the 20th day of this time frame falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, you have until the next business day to file your unemployment appeal.
One way to file an appeal is online using Florida’s CONNECT system. From your Reemployment Assistance account, select the menu option entitled Determination, Pending Issues, and Decision Summary. You will need to enter your issue identification number, which is basically a code related to the reason for your unemployment denial. Then, you will need to answer the prompted questions which follow.
Alternatively, you can fax the paper Notice of Appeal Form to 850-617-6504. You can also file by mail by sending your letter to:
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Office of Appeals
PO Box 5250
Tallahassee, FL 32399
If you mail in the paper form, make sure you mail it early enough to ensure that it gets to the office within the 20-day deadline.
You can also show up to submit your appeal in person:
107 East Madison Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-4143
Florida Unemployment Appeal Process
You will then receive a Notice of Hearing for a phone meeting with a certain date and time. If this does not work for you, submit a Request for Continuance. Otherwise, the Florida appeals referee will contact you on the assigned date, possibly conferencing in other parties (such as a previous employer). A decision will be promptly communicated to you in writing after the call.
But what happens if you disagree with the decision?
If you disagree with the hearing referee’s decision, you contact the Reemployment Assistance Appeals Commission. This commission does not handle first stage appeals, and should only be contacted if you disagree with the referee’s decision. To appeal to the Commission, use the referee decision number when you file the form online.
Keep in mind that the Commission will not be holding another hearing. They will only be looking at the initial appeal and the evidence presented on that date. This is why you should be extremely careful to compile all the evidence that you can before the date of your initial hearing.
How To Gather Evidence for Your Appeal
Witnesses are the best evidence you can provide. They can be conferenced into the hearing and don’t have to appear in person.
Documentary evidence may also be presented, such as employer policies like an HR handbook or employee records such as attendance, notations of absence, and disciplinary records. Text messages and emails may count as documentary evidence as well, while audio recordings, video, and photographs are also acceptable forms of tangible evidence.
Be aware that evidence you submit may become a matter of public record, and that all of it must be submitted at least 24 hours prior to the hearing, excluding weekends. This means that if your hearing is on a Monday, you should submit it before the previous Friday.
Why Was My Florida Unemployment Claim Denied?
When you apply for Florida unemployment benefits in good faith, you are hoping and expecting unemployment compensation to provide some much needed relief.
Unfortunately, there are reasons why unemployment compensation benefits can be denied according to Florida law. If you left work for no good cause or were fired for misconduct, your unemployment claim can be denied. If you are receiving workers compensation already, you are not supposed to be collecting unemployment insurance benefits.
You cannot collect unemployment insurance from two separate places (or more) in the United States. If you are collecting already but turned down suitable employment – for instance, a job that pays 90% of your previous salary for similar work – you can expect to be denied future benefits.
However, sometimes the Department of Economic Opportunity makes a mistake. For instance, you may have been wrongfully terminated but the state declared you at fault. Or, you may have been mistakenly suspected of unemployment fraud.
Fortunately, you have options. First, file a Florida unemployment appeal, gather as much evidence as you can, and attend an appeal hearing. If the appeal decision does not agree with you, take it to the Florida unemployment appeals commission. And if that still proves unsatisfactory, then it may be time to find an employment lawyer who can help you fight for your unemployment benefits.