Unemployment Compensation Hearing

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The Unemployment Compensation Act protects those employees who cannot control the situation that leads to their termination, while protecting employers from paying unemployment compensation to employees who are terminated for just cause.

If an employer is deemed to terminate an employee’s employment without “just cause,” the employee is eligible for unemployment benefits through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). “Just cause” is defined as conduct that an ordinarily intelligent person would regard as a justifiable reason for discharging an employee. While an employee will almost always be entitled to unemployment upon being laid off, an employee may also be entitled to benefits even if they were fired or quit under special circumstances.

The unemployment process has several steps and time limits—it can be complicated and confusing.  It is initiated when you file a claim for benefits through ODJFS. The employer may or may not contest a benefit claim. Regardless, the employee will be given an opportunity to provide in writing why they believe that the employer did not have “just cause” for discharge.  The ODJFS will then make an Initial Determination as to whether the employee should be awarded benefits. Regardless of the decision, both the former employee and the employer have a right to appeal this Initial Determination through ODJFS.

Once benefits have been denied or allowed, the employee or employer has a very short period (21 days) to appeal the denial or allowance. It is during this narrow window that it is most imperative to consult an attorney to properly prepare your appeal and protect your rights.

If appealed, ODJFS will make a second determination commonly referred to as the “Director’s Redetermination”. Again, either the employee or the employer may elect to appeal this decision. At this point, the matter is transferred to the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission (UCRC), and a hearing is held before a UCRC hearing officer. These hearings are like mini-trials. It is at this hearing stage when it becomes especially critical to have legal counsel by your side.  It is very possible that the employee or employer will be represented, and if you are not, you risk that you or your witnesses will be attacked on cross-examination from an experienced adversary.

It is also possible that if you win your claim, but lose at the hearing stage as a result of the employer’s appeal, you will be required to pay all of the unemployment money previously provided back to the state. If you cannot pay it back, the government has certain collection rights, including wage garnishment. With such severe ramifications, it is imperative to have an advocate on your side of the table.

If you need representation for an unemployment compensation hearing, contact our office for a consultation to discuss your case.