Written by attorney Nicholas M. McLeod

What to Expect at a Wisconsin Unemployment Insurance Hearing

1.LOCATION. Hearings in the 5 county Milwaukee-metro area will take place downtown, in a conference room, at the StateOfficeBuilding. Hearings are no longer held at remote locations due to budgeting issues.

2.PEOPLE. Hearings are conducted in front of Administrative Law Judges who apply for their positions and are appointed, not elected. Each party is able to name a representative, who may or may not be an attorney. The representative for a large corporation may be a 3rd party administrator hired specifically to handle unemployment insurance cases. The employer’s and employee’s witnesses will also be present. Hearings are open to the public and occasionally, interested 3rd parties, the press, law students, or law clerks attend hearings.

3.THE RECORD. Unemployment Insurance hearings are recorded and preserved in case of an appeal. It’s important to remember that you and your witnesses are testifying, objecting, and speaking for the record, not just the ALJ presiding over the appeal.


A.Case introduction. The Judge will introduce the case, ask for contact information, and provide preliminary instructions.

B.Framing Questions and opening statements. The Judge will ask each side for opening statements to frame the issues, which should be limited to 2-3 sentences apiece.


  1. In typical cases in which misconduct is the issue and the employer has the burden of proof, the employer will be asked to call its primary witness first.

a. The Judge will question the witness first.

b. The Employer’s representative may conduct a direct examination.

c. The Employee’s representative may cross-examine the witness.

d. The Employer’s representative may attempt to rehabilitate the witness.

e. This process repeats until the employer has called all of its witnesses or the ALJ has elicited an offer of proof for witnesses deemed duplicative or unnecessary.

  1. The employee will be questioned. The procedure described above is followed for the employee and the employee’s witnesses.

  2. The employer may attempt to call rebuttal witnesses to the employee’s testimony.

D.Documents. Exhibits should be presented through witness testimony, and objections to exhibits should typically be reserved for the conclusion of the hearing.

5.OBJECTIONS. At the conclusion of the hearing, the ALJ will determine whether either party has objections to the documents introduced during the hearing. Common objections are hearsay, lack of foundation, and failure to properly authenticate documents. In the UI Division, hearsay documents and testimony is admissible, but the ALJ may not base decisions upon hearsay evidence alone.

6.DETERMINATION. The Judge considers the testimony and exhibits and issues a written determination, usually within one week of the hearing.

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