Unemployment Benefits Appeal Process: All That You Need To Know

Updated : April 15th, 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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  1. I was fired through no fault of my own in the state of NJ. I was hired to help build an apparel startup. Hired for coming from a corporate background, I would make my professional suggestions on how to improve and develop product as that type of information was always welcomed but unfortunately not utilized. During my time, I’ve repeatedly tried to help the company to avoid costly mistakes in the future when it came to producing apparel, yet my boss preferred to always “wing it” change direction and never follow any type of calendared process. Fast forward and to no surprise to me there is an issue with production and I’m informed with vague information and so as a professional, I remind the owners (again) of the proper protocol that I’ve been suggesting and believing that they finally understood this now. But the understanding was an awakening that was too late (as it seems). Therefore a week later, I was fired as a cut in finances, With no severance, I ask for a confirmation on days worked in order to claim for unemployment due to the financial reduction but then am emailed that due to my decision making that the company lost thousands of dollars and that I didn’t perform my job. I continued to apply for my claim and was denied with allegations that in addition to losing thousands of dollars that I now stole candy (of all things) from the company under footage which is false, and that I watched movies on my phone which was also a false claim. The adjudication office has reached out to me to give me 2 days to reply against the ridiculous allegations and I have replied to all her points of accusations. I had also added more information which I regret now because I was a bit emotional because of the low blows that came my way. Nevertheless, the email had been sent and I am now waiting to see the next steps.
    My question is this. In the state of NJ, what are the next steps for determination?
    Will my former employer read my comments which will only add fuel to the fire (which is true on the additional emotional writing) and then create more lies?
    Have employers gotten away with denying claims by creating false claims?
    This is not what I had expected nor planned to rebuttal in an adjudication.
    I only wanted unemployment pay while I continue to look for work.

  2. I went on medical leave in 2016. I had 2 years of approved leave with pay and benefits. Over the past 2 years, I continued on medical. In May of 2018 my employer tried to terminate for refusing to follow the company doctor’s recommendation to return to work with restrictions in a non hazardous area. I was never informed of where to report or when to report for work. I didn’t even know of the attempted termination until I didn’t receive my bi-weekly payment. I filed a greviance to get my job, pay, and benefits back and was awarded a temporary re-instatement until I had a third party doctor exam. During all of this, I reached my 2 year limit on pay and benefits. Once the 3rd party medical exam was done, the doctor sided with me that there were health reasons for not restoring me to my previous position. But he also agreed with my employer’s company doctor offer of returning to work with restrictions in a non hazardous area. My employer informed me at that time they had no jobs available for me. Since I no longer receive pay or benefits I filed for unemployment. The state said that my employer objected to my request for umeployment on the grounds that I’m weeking fulltime for them and now it has been 6 weeks pending adjudication. I receive no pay no benefits and was told I don’t have a job from my employer. How can they hold up my unemployment pay?

    1. Gil,

      Thank you for writing to us. The outcome of the adjudication depends on the paperwork/documents you submit supporting your stance. Please make sure to prepare well and argue confidently in your favor.

  3. I live in the state of Nevada and had filed for unemployment a few months back in June and was denied because of not earning enough funds in that quarter which show that I’m trying to open a claim on a previous claim considered double dipping. I was told that if I worked and made $1,200 then that would be enough to fulfill and be approved for unemployment claim for the new quarter. I did work a new job started the job as a project assistant for a plumbing company to which the hiring manager knew I had never worked in plumbing but had over 20 years in construction. All in all I worked really hard to understand the plumbing industry but I could never satisfy my supervisors expectations and the last week of me working she basically took ball work from me and kept saying she will handle it even though I would ask every hour or less if there is something that I could do, she kept denying me any work because she was frustrated that I couldn’t do the job is good as she did even though she’s been there for 30 years. I was receiving unemployment funds for the past 3 weeks and suddenly I have to wait till November 2nd for an adjudication meeting and my funds have been placed on hold until then. Can my claim be denied because I could not do the job she expected even though she hired me knowing my previous experience? What should I expect now?

    1. Brooke,

      There is a thin line. It can go against your since expectations were not met or it can also be in your favor for unreasonable demands from your supervisor. If you think you have a strong case, make sure to argue well and present all supporting paperwork.

  4. The state of Oregon UI told my spouse every claim that isn’t due to lack of work now goes through adjudication! Is that true or are they just saying that because she ‘resigned en leiu of termination’ in her trial period? She worked for the state, and didn’t want to be unable to find employment in another department.

    1. Ambrose,

      I don’t know if this is true. How can you confirm? By calling the office again and asking for a different representative to speak to.

    2. Yes, this is true, Oregon will adjudicate any “employment separation” that isn’t due to a lack of work. FYI they’ll also treat a resignation in lieu of termination as her being fired because if your wife’s employer told her “quit or you’ll be fired”, she didn’t really have much of a choice and she was going to lose her job either way.

  5. I was terminated while on Workers Comp. The employer didn’t call me, I was notified a month after the fact by the insurance carrier for the employer! And get this,,,When I opened my UI case to start benefit payments, I notated in the questionnaire that I have a lifting restriction imposed by the Doctor but that I can still physically work and I’m currently available to work….and I was denied UI benefits.
    I’m appealing.

    1. Will,

      I think you should be eligible to collect UI benefits under such circumstances. Please make sure to keep supporting documents handy to support your stance during the Appeal.

  6. I’m currently appealing an availability issue in Massachusetts. I was accepted to a local community college never enrolled and because at the time when I applied I stated I was accepted they denied me. I was laid off due to lack of work it was a temporary position on August 3, 2018. My previous employer I was with 2+years, however I did quit that job which I’m sure doesn’t help my claim, however I’ve submitted everything from my most recent employer including wages which redetermined me eligible. Now I’m appealing my availability… I’ve contacted the college to get verification letter stating I’m not enrolled nor have I ever been but due to their protocols they fought me tooth and nail to get this verification. Stating there’s nothing to send if I’ve never been so there. Last week they finally sent a certified seal enrollment letter that shows I am inactive and never enrolled or registered within that institution. I think it was to stop me from constantly contacting them. Will this help remove the availability disqualification? Also are availability cases easier to resolve?

    1. Lily,

      To offer a straightforward answer to your question, if you lost the previous job due to involuntary reasons (no fault of yours), you should be eligible to collect.

      1. So I just got my Late Appeal decision after sending in all necessary information as to why I was filing late pertaining to being offered a temporary job. The decision states DETERMINED.

        Not exactly sure what that implies. I’m assuming the worst though. Since no adjudicator ever called me. Can you please clarify?

        1. Lily,

          I suggest you call the Claims Center to find out the status. It more or less means the “Determination” process is now complete.

      2. UPDATE: I called the claims center to clarify the adjudicator’s decision they stated that it means I found eligible for the Late Appeal regarding my availability. The representative also stated that its very strange to be appealing a one party decision ( thus meaning appealing just myself.) Will I still have to continue with this hearing since my enrollment verification proves with a certified seal inactivity and no enrollment has ever been made? Are availability appeals easier to win since its not a wage or reason for termination I am appealing?

        1. Lily,

          This seems like a complicated situation. I suggest you ring up the adjudicator and consult him/her on further steps.

  7. my adjutication was removed and my case still says that im eligble and active does that mean the ruled in my favor ?

    1. Jeannette,

      That is correct. The authorities might have ruled in your favor and ruled out the need for an adjudication. Please call the office for clarification.

  8. After working at various jobs over the course of 24 years and never being fired,I finally was recently. The reason was arguing with a manager because she was unprofessional and baited me into a argument and I signed the statement she wrote against me before I left and now I wonder will the unemployment official side in my favor over me signing the statement..

    1. Jason,

      If you’re able to prove your position preferably with supporting documents, you should be able to collect UI benefits.

  9. Can you be denied unemployment after being terminated for allegedly making a customers grocery bags too heavy. Customer made a complaint that I packed her bags too heavy. When I had only put 4-6 items in each bag. This occurred while I worked for Meijer.

    1. That sounds like an awful reason to terminate employment. Please consider applying for UI benefits until you find employment. You may want to speak to the Unemployment Office in your state once before applying. Please call them.

  10. I moved to NC for a Job the employer begged for me to work for him. The job is 1 hour away. I got sick one day driving there and went to work and told the girl I was working with that I was sick and may need to go home so I call the the staffing lady and the own and told them I’m sick and I’m going home they said OK. Next day get a text saying I’m off for the next 2 think they could not find anyone to work with me see my tech went on vacation. When my tech came back from vacation they told her she will be working alone she sent me the text I was shocked because now it’s two weeks with out work I’m a fulltime worked get a w2 at the end of the year. I work the own stating what is going on why you not having me work I said I will have to file unemployment no response. Umployment told them I walked off the job when the all said I called them when I was leaving stating I was sick and they sent Umployment the call off work text they sent me its been 6 weeks and no amswer on my unemployment case help if you can

    1. Lace,

      Unemployment Insurance benefits are extended to those who lose their job due to involuntary reasons. If you think this was the case, please consider filing until you find employment. Make sure to keep supporting documents handy in case of a dispute.

  11. I filed for unemployment in florida but then moved to Georgia, after I was unable to obtain a job in Florida. I was hired at amazon in Florida but have already moved to Georgia and receiving unemployment at the time. The unemployment is now adjudicating because it picked up that I was a new hire at Amazon but I Couldn’t work for Amazon seeing how I moved out of Florida before I was hired. It has now been eight weeks of claiming with a hold on my funds what will happen next?

    1. Ernest,

      If you still remain unemployed, you should be able to continue claiming UI benefits. Since you’ve moved to Georgia, you can consider transferring your claim over to the new state.

  12. I worked a 3 yr contract with an employment firm. That contract ended unexpectantly and I filed unemployment. The employer called me with 2 jobs. one of the jobs was at the company that I just left and the company had a 6-month wait and I was unsure if I could return to the company. I expressed this to the employer and they said that they would check to see if I could return to the employer. I was trying to avoid rejection/embarrassment for myself and the employer. I was submitted for 2 jobs.

    The employer filed a protest saying I had refused work. I spoke with the adjudicator. (Who called me a day earlier than our call) It turns out two jobs that of the two jobs they said I had refused. they had submitted me for one and the other was the job aforementioned. the employer never got back in touch with me and I eventually applied for the job.

    The adjudicator told me that I would receive two letters in the mail in 5 -7 business days and told me to keep certifying.

    Any idea where this is landing. The employer did not tell the truth and I sent documented information to our phone call. The adjudicator said that they had cancellations and that was why he was calling a day early.

    Any ramifications for the employer not telling the truth.

    1. It’s the time to make a strong case for yourself. Chase the adjudicator at regular intervals and submit the required documents in your support.

  13. I finally got the courage to do this as I now get Social Security but I doubt things have changed. Years ago when I was working I had a sales job and they did all sorts of sexist crap. They would not pay the spiffs to females. They called you names over the intercom. They would break things on products ordered and picked up by customers. People knew about it but would not come forth. When you saw something illegal going on that you were not supposed to see, you got fired. The employer lied about you to the DES and they even lied to future employers so that you never had respect once you worked at their place. The so called judges as your hearings admonished you for speaking out but there was nothing to be done unless others backed you up and they were afraid for their jobs. This still goes on. For the most part it is women judges doing the bidding of male employers. Some of these women should be asking themselves questions about the lives of others they were complicit in destroying. There never was any recourse for sexual harassment and discrimination and there still is not. Have any of these female judges ever thought to require further proofs from the employers. Has any judge ever compelled the employer to proof of sales or production exceeded by the women who have been fired? That would be the most telling. When other situations arise and the female employee has been with the company for more than five years, have any of these judges had the sense to ask if the person lasted with you that long and their last evaluation was superior enough to merit a raise, why do you all of a sudden doubt the employee? There is no common sense to these horrible women and they are there as judges because of their stupidity. The system is geared to protect only the rights of the employer so don’t be down on yourselves if you find yourself a victim because if the employer loses then you have a case! DES judges are paid to destroy people.

  14. Please contact me I’m going to be homeless loose vehicle they are holding my unemployment and I don’t know why I’ve been doing everything and more I’m a cancer patient and have to get to my therapy today I can’t go cause my trucks out of gas and no money

    1. Jerome,

      Hope you get out of this situation soon. Please let us know how we can help you. This is a private forum and our help can be limited. If you’re referring to Unemployment Insurance, please call the Claims Center for further inquiry.

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