After you have filed your initial application for unemployment benefits, you will receive a determination from an adjuster at the Department of Economic Opportunity either granting or denying you benefits. If you are denied by the adjuster, you have 20 days from the date of the denial to file an appeal and request a telephonic hearing with an Appeals Referee. You can do this online in the same fashion as you have been claiming your weeks. Do not let the 20 days expire, or if they do, still file your appeal and provide an explanation as to why you missed the deadline. Make sure that you state some type of good cause for the delay, but always be truthful. Florida case law favors hearing unemployment matters on their merits and strictly construes technical dismissals of appeals; however, if you just didn't file it because you forgot, your appeal may not be reinstated. It's very beneficial to speak to an unemployment attorney about this matter if you are late in filing.
Get your Stuff Together
Once the Department of Economic Opportunity has your appeal, you will be provided a Notice of Hearing, which usually will only mailed 10 days before your hearing date. You need to be prepared with any witnesses, documents, emails, and arguments for the telephonic hearing.
THIS IS YOUR ONLY CHANCE TO PRESENT EVIDENCE ABOUT YOUR CASE!!!
If you are going to rely on some documents, you need not only provide them to the Appeals Referee, but you need to give them to your former employer as well, and this needs to be done in advance of the hearing. Additionally, during the hearing, they need to be moved into evidence, so don't think that just because you provided them to the Appeals Referee and the employer that they are automatically going to be considered. You can also have witnesses available to give testimony. You can also ask the Appeals Referee to compel other witnesses (who may not come voluntarily) to testify through a subpoena. File everything you want considered.
Call an attorney to Discuss your case
It is so easy to think that you can do this yourself, but unemployment compensation law has gotten more complicated. Recently, the unemployment statutes underwent a major revision, taking out many of the employee-friendly provisions. An employer may have a human resource director who has done lots of these cases and knows what they need to do to defend against your claim. They are usually professionals.
You, on the other hand, probably have not handled any legal claims or cross-examined witnesses or challenged documents. While you may know your case better than anyone else, you might not know what specific portions upon which you should focus. It's a good idea to get a professional's advice, if you can, before the hearing.
Remember, this is your only chance to argue and present evidence. All of the appeals that may follow will be based on this hearing. You will not be able to argue something new. No "Monday Morning quarterbacks" here.
Be Calm during the Hearing
This hearing will be emotional for you and probably nerve-wracking. It is important to remain calm, courteous, and polite during the hearing. While you may not agree with what a witness is saying, or while you may believe that a witness is lying, you must respond professionally. The Appeals Referee is charged with judging your credibility. If there is conflicting testimony, the Appeals Referee can believe the employer and not you, even if your witness supports your account. If you remain professional, then your chances of the Appeals Referee believing your story will only increase.
If you don't win, don't give up
Hopefully, you'll win your appeal and get your benefits. But you may lose the appeal. That doesn't mean that your battle is over. You still request review by the Unemployment Appeals Commission where you can argue that there was no competent substantial evidence to support the Appeals Referee's facts or that the Appeals Referee misinterpreted the law. You also have the ability to file a legal brief at the UAC. If you lose there, then your final appeal will be to the District Court of Appeal, where you may receive attorneys fees if successful.
No matter what happens, don't give up. Be prepared for your hearing and argue everything you can.
If you believe that you may be in over your head, or just want to make sure you get your best shot at receiving benefits, then it may be beneficial to speak to an unemployment appeals attorney. They should help you properly evaluate your chances.
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