How To File For Unemployment Benefits in Washington State
Immediately File Oline for Unemployment BenefitsVisit Washington State's Employment Security Department (ESD) website and click Claim Unemployment Benefits Online (link is below).
You will be asked when you lost your job, from where, how long you had worked there and the reason why you lost your job.
You must answer these questions truthfully. The ESD website offers a FAQs section that can help you properly answer the questions.
To keep your claim active, you must file weekly for unemployment benefits.
Your benefit eligibility is based upon what you were earning at your last job.
Maintain a Job Log of 3 Searches Each WeekYou must maintain a job search log of at least 3 job inquiries every week. Job inquiries may involve applications, interviews, networking, etc. From the ESD's website: "Each week that you claim benefits, you must make at least three employer contacts or participate in three in-person job search activities (or a combination of both for a total of three) at your local WorkSource office or local employment center."
Your job log must be detailed and contain the employer name, contact, contact information, position and date contacted.
Talking With The AdjudicatorAn ESD adjudicator (decisionmaker) will review your claim for unemployment. S/he will contact your former employer. The employer will either agree with your statement or offer an alternative version of the reasons for separation.
If your former employer offers alternative reasons and this creates an issue as to the true reason why you were terminated, the adjudicator will interview you on the phone to gather more information. You may submit documentation for the adjudicator's consideration.
Even if you were let go for what appeared no reason, your employer may contest your eligibility for unemployment in order to avoid having to pay money into the State's unemployment fund.
The adjudicator will then issue a decision which will be sent to you and your former employer in the ESD's "determination letter."
Appeal the Denial of BenefitsIf the adjudicators determines that you are ineligible for unemployment benefits, you have a right to appeal. The ESD must provide one of two reasons as the basis for denial, either: 1) you quit or 2) you engaged in willful misconduct.
In any case of denial, you have 30 days from the date of the determination letter to file an appeal with the ESD. Instructions for properly filing the appeal are listed in the letter, along with the ESD's fax number.
Your appeal should be a simple letter, stating the following:
1. your name
2. social security number
4. phone number
5. ESD ID
6. the fact that you are appealing the adjudicator's determination
7. the reason for the appeal: you disagree with the decision, either you did quit (but for good cause, the exception to benefits) or you did not engage in willful misconduct.
Continue to Keep a Job LogEven if the ESD denied your benefits, continue to file for your weekly benefits and to maintain a log of at least 3 job inquires a week.
Setting the Administrative HearingOnce the ESD receives your appeal, it forwards your file to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). OAH assigns your matter to a judge and a telephonic hearing is scheduled. The Office is experiencing a back-log of appeals, so it will provide an in-person hearing only upon request and only for urgent circumstances (e.g., claimant is hearing-impaired).
You will receive a Notice of Hearing in the mail along with a copy of all materials the ESD adjudicator considered. The file will include materials submitted by both you and your former employer.
If you have a schedule conflict with the hearing, you must contact the OAH immediately and request a change. Otherwise, you MUST attend the hearing. Failure to attend the hearing automatically results in a default against you.
Preparing for the HearingYou have the option of representing yourself or retaining a lawyer to represent you at the hearing. My law firm handles unemployment hearings.
Prior to the hearing, you may submit a legal brief with additional exhibits and citations to the law for the judge's consideration.
The Day of the HearingCall into the toll-free number for the hearing 5-10 minutes before the scheduled start time. This shows your commitment to appealing the determination.
The judge will ensure all parties and their attorneys (if any) are present on the phone. S/he will then go through the file from the ESD and ensure everyone has copies of all marked exhibits, which become a record with the OAH.
The judge will then swear you in under oath and you may provide your testimony, offering your explanation for your separation from your employer. The judge may ask you questions. Your former employer or its attorney may ask you questions.
You may call any witnesses.
Once your case is presented, your former employer will present its case.
The judge will then ask for any rebuttal from both parties.
The judge will then conclude the matter.
Judge's DecisionWithin the next 14 days, the OAH judge will render a written opinion comprising findings of fact, conclusions of law and an order. The decision will be sent in the mail to all parties.
If the decision is against you, you have 30 days from the date of the judge's order to mail a Petition for Review (no longer than 5-pages), citing no new arguments to the Commissioner.
A Commissioner will review the Petition and either affirm, reverse or remand for a new hearing.