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Unemployment Benefits Appeal Process: All That You Need To Know

Updated : August 5th, 2022


If you have lost your job through no fault of your own, you can apply for unemployment benefits if you meet all the eligibility criteria. However, many times, despite meeting the requirements, your state’s insurance program might deny your claim. In such cases, you have the right to appeal the denial. So how do you file an unemployment benefits appeal? Read on to know the process.

5 Reasons Your Unemployment Claim Was Denied

  • Incomplete Information
  • Didn’t Earn Enough During Base Period
  • Fired for Misconduct
  • Voluntarily Quit Your Job
  • Not Ready, Willing and Able To Accept Employment

Unemployment insurance exists to help ensure that American workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own have access to financial assistance. Unemployment benefits are administered at the state level, and each state has its own set of specific criteria that workers must meet for their unemployment benefits claims to be approved.

Unemployment benefits are only available to employees who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. When unemployment claims are denied on first review, it’s typically because the former employee does not have good cause for being unemployed.

Once you have filed a claim for unemployment benefits, your information will carefully be reviewed by your state’s unemployment agency – after which you will receive a written decision. The agency will contact you to let you know whether your claim has been accepted or denied.

If your claim is approved, you will begin filing weekly claim requests and receiving unemployment compensation. However, not every unemployment benefits claim is approved upon first review. If your benefits claim is denied, you do have additional appeal steps you can explore, including an appeals hearing.

Who Can Appeal Unemployment?

Both you and your employer have the right to file an initial appeal if there is a disagreement with the initial decision regarding your claim. While you can file an unemployment appeal if you are not initially approved for benefits, your employer also may file a UI appeal if you are approved for benefits, but your employer does not believe the evidence supports them.

To prove that you shouldn’t be eligible for unemployment benefits, your former employer must show that either you voluntarily quit your former job without good cause, you were fired for serious misconduct, or you haven’t accrued enough work credits to be eligible for unemployment benefits. Each state has different requirements for accruing work credits, so a qualified unemployment lawyer may be able to help you determine whether you qualify based on evidence of your work experience.

It’s fairly common for employers to file an appeal when unemployment benefits are awarded. This is because each UI claim costs the employer money. Unemployment benefits are funded directly by unemployment insurance taxes, which are paid by employers. The more of its employees who file for unemployment insurance benefits, the more taxes an employer must pay. This motivates an employer to keep the number of approved unemployment benefits cases as low as possible.

If your initial claim for unemployment benefits is denied, you may request an appeal. In either case, you and your employer will be invited to participate in an appeals hearing, after which you will receive a formal appeal decision.

How To File An Unemployment Benefits Appeal

You will have limited time to appeal your unemployment benefits. Some states have as little as 15 days, and others have 30 days. If your claim is denied, you can file for an unemployment benefits appeal online or by mail.


  • Log in to your online UI account
  • Click view and maintain the option
  • Click monetary and issue summary
  • Choose the issue ID and click appeal


There are two ways to file an unemployment benefits appeal through mail:

  1. File the appeal request information form that was mailed to you along with the notice of denial.
  2. Include claimant ID, contact information, and write a letter requesting for appeal.

The form letter must be mailed to your state’s Department of Unemployment Insurance. The process of filing an unemployment appeal may vary with your state. Check your state Department Of Labor for more guidelines on how to appeal unemployment benefits.

When appealing the unemployment benefits, have copies of information like warnings, timesheets, medical records, contracts, contracts, or other documents that support your argument that you were not laid off through your fault. The more supporting documents you have, the higher the chance you will win an appeal.

If you have witnesses who are aware that you haven’t lost your job due to your fault, it can be very helpful. Bring the witnesses with you or ask them to be available over the phone or virtual unemployment appeal on the day of the hearing so they can testify on your behalf.

You can also bring legal or other professional representation to the hearing. If you hire a lawyer, ask about fees, so that you can decide if it is worth the expense.

5 Reasons Your Unemployment Claim Was Denied

While there are many reasons for an initial unemployment claim to be denied, we’ve listed some of the most common below.

1. Incomplete Information

One of the most common reasons for an unemployment benefits claim to be denied is that the paperwork is filled out incorrectly or fails to document essential information or evidence. Before you submit your initial benefits claim, make sure you review it to ensure that it is complete and accurate.

2. Didn’t Earn Enough During Base Period

Though requirements vary, most states will insist that a worker earn sufficient income during a one-year base period to be eligible for unemployment benefits. This base period typically consists of the first four of the five most recently completed calendar quarters before the unemployment claim was filed. It’s important to understand that there’s a fairly wide variance in how states approach minimum earnings.

For example, in New Jersey, a successful claimant must show that they have earned a minimum of $200 per week through eligible employment for 20 consecutive weeks during the base period, which translates to at least $10,000 in total covered employment during the base period. But in California, a claimant needs to show that they have earned at least $1,300 in the highest-paid quarter of the base period. In California, a claimant also may receive UI benefits, though, if they earned at least $900 in the highest-paid quarter of the base period and at least 1.25 times earnings from the highest-paid quarter during the entire base period.

So, it gets complicated fairly quickly – this is why it’s important to research eligibility criteria for your specific state. It often makes sense to work with a qualified unemployment attorney in your state to make sure you’re navigating all the eligibility criteria appropriately. If you fail to meet the minimum earnings criteria for your particular state, your unemployment benefits claim will be denied.

3. Fired for Misconduct

If you lost your job because of your own misconduct, your unemployment benefits claim will be denied. Misconduct looks like many different things – it could include violating company policies, coming to work while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, ignoring required safety protocols, chronic absenteeism, regularly coming to work late, or carrying out criminal activities, just to name a few. If you were fired for any of these reasons, you will not be able to claim unemployment benefits.

However, if your job was eliminated as part of a cost-cutting strategy or you were let go because the company didn’t feel you were the right “fit,” you may be able to claim unemployment benefits. As with most specifics around unemployment benefits, much depends on the state where you live. For example, in California, your claim generally is denied only if your misconduct is considered especially serious or damages your employer’s business.

4. Voluntarily Quit Your Job

One of the key eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits generally states that you must have lost your job through no fault of your own. This typically means that your unemployment benefits claim will be denied if you voluntarily quit your job. However, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. There are some situations in which you may voluntarily quit employment while remaining eligible for unemployment benefits.

Most state laws stipulate that employees who leave their work for “good cause” may still collect unemployment benefits. The complication comes from the fact that “good cause” is defined differently from state to state.

However, there are a few common situations that are almost universally considered good cause for quitting your job. These situations include:

  • Employment discrimination
  • Sexual harassment
  • Hostile work environment
  • Dangerous working conditions
  • Being required by a supervisor to commit illegal acts
  • Medical reasons
  • Need to escape domestic violence
  • Quitting to care for an ill family member

For example, if your workplace discriminates against you because of your inclusion in a protected class, this can constitute a violation of state or federal anti-discrimination laws. When you can show that the level of employment discrimination made your workplace unmanageable, quitting in this situation can be classified as a constructive discharge. In addition, if your employer insists that you use dangerous equipment without appropriate safety measures, this can be considered good cause for quitting your job.

Some states also honor unemployment benefits for workers who quit in order to relocate with a military spouse who is transferred. Make sure you carefully research the specific criteria for your state that can constitute good cause. You may want to confer with a knowledgeable employment lawyer to make sure you fully understand the landscape. If you are unable to show that you quit your job for good cause, your unemployment benefits claim will be denied.

5. Not Ready, Willing and Able to Accept Employment

One of the chief eligibility criteria in most states is that you are ready, willing, and able to accept employment when it is offered to you. If you decide that you’d rather not immediately return to work, your unemployment benefits claim will be denied.

This also includes making sure that you have appropriate transportation for getting to work and that you have lined up child care if you need it to accept employment. Even if you decide you’d like to be a stay-at-home parent for a few months before returning to work, this decision can mean that your claim will be denied. In fact, in many states, you must be able to document that you are actively searching for new employment in order to be approved for unemployment benefits.

What Evidence Do I Need at My Hearing?

When you appeal your benefits claim decision, you likely will be asked to participate in an appeals hearing before an administrative law judge. During your scheduled hearing, you will be allowed to present additional evidence on your behalf. For example, if your personal health is a relevant item to your claim, you may want to present medical records or statements from physicians who are treating you to help make your case.

You may present statements from former co-workers who witnessed either specific events that are relevant to your claim or can attest to the ongoing work environment at your former employer. Incident reports filed with your employer’s human resources team, performance reviews, and even surveillance video can be valuable pieces of information that help strengthen your claim during your hearing.

Notice of Hearing

After you file an unemployment benefits appeal, you will receive a notice of hearing. The notice will include the hearing date, time, and location. The hearing can be either over telephone or face-to-face. Telephone hearings will be allowed only under certain circumstances like you are located at least 50 miles away from the hearing location.

If it is over the telephone, you will get 14 days advance notice of hearing, and 7 days in advance of the face-to-face hearing.

Not showing up for the appeal hearing may result in denial of your appeal. If you are not able to attend under unfortunate circumstances, be prepared to provide documentation that proves you had a genuine reason for missing the appeal.

What To Do During the Hearing

First and foremost, it’s important to keep your scheduled hearing appointment and to arrive at your hearing on time. If you have a conflict or know that you will be late for your hearing, you should immediately contact the Office of Administrative Hearings to let them know and to potentially reschedule. Make sure any witnesses also understand the importance of being present and on time.

If you are bringing additional documentation, make sure to bring multiple copies – you’ll want to leave documentation behind, and you may need a copy yourself to reference so that you make sure to make all relevant points during the hearing. You also may find it helpful to list out in advance the key points you need to make during the appeal hearing so that you don’t leave anything out. Bring these notes with you so that you can reference them during your testimony.

When it’s your turn to speak, be clear, concise, and focused. This is your opportunity to tell the administrative law judge everything you need her to know, so use the opportunity wisely. During your testimony, the administrative law judge may ask you some questions, as may your employer’s representative.

In some cases, administrative hearings may be held by video or telephone conference. In these cases, follow the same guidelines presented here. Dial into the telephone hearing at least five minutes early to allow for technology troubleshooting. Following your hearing, the administrative law judge will release an appeal decision.

Can I File A Claim During The Appeal Process?

Yes, you can file a claim during the appeal process. Continue to file for unemployment benefits as scheduled. Also, be available or able to work and actively look for a job. Unemployment benefits are usually contingent on the claimants looking for work.

You don’t want to get through your appeals process, only to learn that you have been disqualified from receiving your benefits because you are not actively looking for a job.

However, note that you will not receive any benefits during the process. If you win the appeal, you will receive the benefits of those weeks.

Should I Hire an Employment Lawyer?

Whether to hire an employment lawyer is a personal decision. If you’ve submitted an initial unemployment insurance benefits claim that has been denied, you may find it helpful to engage with an employment attorney, who can help you navigate the appeals process and offer general legal advice.

However, if you’re unsure about your particular situation and whether the evidence qualifies you for UI benefits within your state, you may want to consult with an employment lawyer from the very beginning. An employment attorney can carefully and objectively assess your situation and advise as to the likelihood of your claim being accepted – and they will be well versed in the employment law of your state. In this way, you can enter the unemployment benefits claim process with a good estimation of your chances for success. If your case clearly doesn’t qualify for unemployment benefits in your state, a good employment lawyer will let you know so you can avoid a frustrating appeals process.

If you’re thinking of quitting a hostile work environment, a good employment lawyer also can counsel you on everything from evidence to help document the work environment to available whistleblower protections within your state.

Unemployment Appeal Process

Unemployment benefits vary from state to state. As you consider your UI benefits, it’s important to understand your state’s guidelines and how they align with your situation.

It also helps to understand common reasons for unemployment claims to be denied. With the information presented here, you can make a better decision about how best to move forward in your case. If you feel uncertain of how to proceed, you may want to consult with an employment lawyer before filing a UI claim. Doing so can increase your chances and reduce frustration along the way.

Despite submitting all the evidence, there are chances that you may lose the appeal. Do not be devastated if you lose the first hearing of an appeal, as many states have multiple levels of reviewing. To know more about the appeal process and rules in your state, contact authorities at the Department of Unemployment Insurance.

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