The Initial Determination
When you initially apply for unemployment, an Adjudicator takes the information you provide, along with information provided by your employer to make a determination of whether you qualify for unemployment. It takes several weeks to receive this determination. If the Adjudicator determines that you are disqualified from receiving benefits, then you can appeal that decision simply by writing "I appeal" on the determination and submitting it to the Department of Employment Security at the address/fax provided on the determination, or by dropping it off at your local office. Of course, if the Adjudicator finds in your favor, the Employer also has the opportunity to appeal. There will be a date on the determination by which you have to submit your appeal. If you fail to submit it by the date listed, it is very possible that your appeal will be denied.
Appeal from the Determination
If you appeal the Adjudicator's determination (or if the Employer appeals), you will be scheduled for a appeals hearing. Again, it will take several weeks before you get notice of the hearing date/time. During this time you should continue to file your weekly certifications. These hearings typically take place over the phone, although you or the Employer may request to have the hearing in person at the local office. During the hearing, you and your Employer will be given the opportunity to explain to the Appeals Referee the events leading to your separation of employment. Both parties may call witnesses and cross-examine the other party. It is important to remember that this hearing will likely be your only opportunity to present evidence. Any future appeals (discussed below) will be limited to a review of the hearing. So, it is important that you present all evidence relevant and important for your case. This is also the best point to retain an attorney.
Appeal from Appeals Referee's Decision (2nd Level Appeal)
After your hearing, the Appeals Referee will issue a decision in writing. This typically takes 1-3 weeks. If the decision is not in your favor, you have the opportunity to appeal the decision to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce. To do this you must submit a written appeal within 10 days of the date the decision was mailed. It is not enough to simply write "I appeal" as with the initial determination. You must list a specific, legal reason for the appeal. Once you appeal, the DES will review the recording of your hearing and all paperwork that is a part of the record. The purpose of the review is to determine whether they believe the Appeals Referee made the right decision given the evidence presented at the hearing. It can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months to get the decision back from this appeal. Although it does happen, it is much less common that decisions of the Appeals Referee are overturned. Once the decision has been made, it will be mailed to you.
Appeal from the 2nd Level Appeal
If the decision of the 2nd Level Appeal is still is not in your favor, you can ask for post-decision relief within 10 days of the date the decision was mailed (I've never seen this change the outcome) or you can file a Petition for Judicial Review within 30 days. If you get to this point, you will definitely want to consider getting an attorney. The PJR is filed in state court in the county in which you reside. There is a $200 filing fee. Once the PJR is filed, it will be placed on the court calendar. This can take a few months, depending on the county. Once it is calendared, your attorney goes before the Superior Court Judge and presents an argument that the Appeals Referee made the wrong decision given the evidence presented at the hearing. The Attorney from the Department of Employment Security will be there to argue the opposite. Once the Judge reviews the record, he/she will make a decision. An attorney is necessary to appeal this decision.