Virginia Unemployment Compensation; Important Procedural Tips for Claimants
Virginia Unemployment Compensation; Some Practical Procedural Tips for Claimants According to data compiled by National Employment Law Project (NELP) (http://www.nelp.org/index.php/site/issues/category/State_Reports_and_Statistics/) in the second quarter of 2008, only 26% of Virginia claimants were successful in claiming unemployment compensation. Thus, approximately 74% of the claimants did not succeed with their claims. Since most attorneys do not offer representation solely for unemployment benefits, most claimants go to hearings without adequate preparation and representation. Unfortunately, most people with meritorious claims lack legal training. Consequently, they do not know how to effectively present evidence and conduct a direct and cross examination of the employer and/or his or her witnesses. These skills are frequently critical to establishing the actual facts of the case. This results in many claimants being at a strong disadvantage from an employer, who has decided to contest the claim on the grounds that the employee committed misconduct or voluntarily quit without good cause. This disadvantage becomes even more pronounced when the employer has professional representation. Therefore, claimants may be helped by the following practical guidance:
In Virginia, once you file for unemployment compensation and meet the monetary eligibility standards (i.e., having worked sufficient quarters in a representative period), you will be interviewed by a non-attorney Deputy Examiner who will conduct a fact-finding interview of both you and the employer in an effort to determine why you were terminated. This is not a hearing as the Deputy Examiner is not giving you and the employer an opportunity to resolve any disagreement about what occurred before you were fired. As a general rule, once your employer asserts misconduct or alleges that the employee voluntarily quit, the deputy examiner will deny your claim.
Prior to the fact-finding interview, it is beneficial for you to consult with an attorney or representative who has legal knowledge on Virginia’s unemployment compensation system and who has experience representing claimants before the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC). They can evaluate your claim, advise you on whether it has merits and provide guidance on how you should present the facts of your case to the Deputy Examiner. You should be totally forthcoming during this consultation because hiding information will not help you. Your representative needs to know all the relevant information or she or he won’t be able to effectively address it and defend you when it is later made known at upcoming proceedings.
If you have a meritorious claim, which is denied by the Deputy Examiner, you should promptly again contact your representative prior to filing an appeal of this decision, requesting a 1st level hearing before an Attorney Examiner. You will have 30 days from the date of the mailing of the Deputy Examiner's decision to appeal. At this stage, the representative will give you further guidance on what evidence to gather in support of your appeal. It is important to obtain this information before an appeal is filed.
When an appeal is filed, the VEC will send you in about 10 days a packet of materials containing the hearing notice and the results of the fact-finding interview along with other preliminary documents leading up to the fact-finding interview and any other documents that either you and/or your employer may have submitted in support of your respective statements.
As soon as you receive this VEC packet, it is extremely important for you to return to your legal representative as quickly as possible so that additional guidance, possible representation and preparation can be timely arranged. Do not delay in contacting your legal representative as it can be and often is harmful to your case. Proper preparation takes time and may involve interviewing witnesses and/or taking affidavits.
Taking all of these steps will give you the best opportunity to succeed in your appeal.