California law protects workers who are victims of domestic violence in a number of ways so you have a good chance to win your unemployment appeal, even in addition to the general unemployment eligibility requirements. Details about eligibility for unemployment benefits can be found on the California Employment Development Department (EDD) web site: http://www.edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/FAQ_-_Eligibility.htm#Whataretheeligibilityrequirements
Under law, an eligible claimant is entitled to unemployment benefits UNLESS she either (1) was fired for misconduct or (2) quit work without cause. In your case, the issue will be whether you were fired for misconduct (at the bottom of your Notice, it should refer to Unemployment Code section 1256).
Your employer has the burden of proof to show that you engaged in misconduct (an intentional act against the interest of the employer) when you missed work. Escaping from domestic violence is not misconduct and California law even allows an employee to notify the employer after the fact that an absence was necessary due to domestic violence. If the employee needs to attend to legal matters related to domestic violence, Labor Code sections 230(c) et seq. may help. (see link below).
---> In addition, Labor Code 230.1(a)(4) allows an employee who works for an employer with at least 25 employees to take time off from work to move.
The Notice of Determination stating your claim was denied includes information about the appeal. You MUST file your appeal within 20 days of the date stated in that letter. Do not miss the deadline.
In the appeal, make a brief statement just one or two lines long saying why you believe the denial was incorrect. Save your detailed argument and evidence for the hearing. For example:" I notified my employer in advance I had to move to escape domestic violence."
In a few weeks, you will receive a notice of an appeals hearing with the date, time and location. At the hearing, be prepared with as much evidence as possible (cell phone record showing the 7:38 a.m. call, witnesses who overheard the boss yelling, etc.). You should also know the law the administrative law judge will consider. You can get a lot of helpful information on the EDD website.
Summaries of the law (Benefit Determination Guide)
Precedent Decisions (law the administrative law judges rely on)
Frequently asked questions
Filing a claim for unemployment benefits
You can be represented by anyone at the hearing. If your appeal will be difficult or you are uncomfortable speaking, you may wish to retain an attorney to help you prepare or to represent you at the hearing. For training, expect the attorney to need approximately three hours. For representation at the hearing, expect the attorney to need three to seven hours to prepare, depending on the complexity of the case, witnesses, documents and other evidence, and allow two hours for the hearing itself. Unemployment hearings usually last one hour or less, but you must arrive early to look at the file, and there is a possibility you will have to wait past your hearing time if the previous case has not finished.
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twitter.com/MikaSpencer *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***
Under the circumstances, I recommend that you have an experienced lawyer by your side to present your best possible case and help you give your best testimony. EDD Judges are very busy and would probably appreciate having a lawyer present the facts in the best possible light for you.
I hope your outlook improves.
David A. Mallen offers answers on Avvo for general information only. This offer of free, general answers is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. If you need specific advice regarding your legal question, you should consult an attorney confidentially. Many experienced California labor and employment attorneys, including David A. Mallen offer no-risk legal consultations to employers and employees at no charge. David A. Mallen is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, as well as the California Labor Commissioner and the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. Failure to take legal action within the time periods prescribed by law could result in the loss of important legal rights and remedies.
You are asking a very good question. You should not include a lot of information in your appeal letter and it should be short and to the point; Something like: "I believe I was wrongly denied benefits because I was not terminated for misconduct and I hereby request an appeal hearing" is enough.
It might well worth it for you to be represented at a hearing or at the very least consult with an attorney before the hearing to make sure that you understand how the process works, how to put your best foot forward and maximize your chances of winning. Since you quit, you will have to show that you had compelling, substantial reasons for quitting, and an attorney should be able to help you present the claim properly.
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