Employment Enterprises Blog

Winning an Unemployment Hearing: 6 Tips for Employers

Posted by Michael McPherson on Mar 16, 2017 6:28:00 AM

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Firing an employee, delivering a not-so-great annual review, policing employee conflict–there are many uncomfortable tasks that fall on the shoulders of an HR manager. But when asked what part of their job makes them most nervous, a common answer is unemployment hearings.

This anxiety often stems from a lack of knowledge about the unemployment system or not understanding what will be expected of them. Hearings usually revolve around one of two issues: whether the employee was terminated for misconduct or whether the employee quit for good reason.

Put your fears to rest and contest confidently with these tips for making the hearing process less intimidating:

1. Take It Seriously

The tendency is for employers to prioritize other tasks they view as more valuable. However, preparation is key if you want to win the hearing. Reduce the labor needed to manage your UI program by leveraging some automation and devote the proper amount of time to prepare without risking your bottom line.

2. Show Respect

This includes consistently addressing the judge as “Your Honor” and not talking over him or her. A lack of respect could cost you the hearing. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you.

3. Be an Active Listener

While it may be tempting to focus on what you’re going to say next, it’s important that you pay attention to what the defense is saying. Write down inconsistencies or improper testimonies to leverage when you cross-examine the other party or their witnesses. Use these inconsistencies to strengthen your case.

4. Don't Speculate

Avoid guessing when answering a question from either the judge or the claimant. If you don’t know the answer to the question, don’t be afraid to say so. If specifically asked to speculate or guess, be certain that they understand you are doing so, though it’s best to avoid if at all possible.

5. Stick to the Facts

Avoid protesting a long list of the employee’s previous offenses. Stick to the incident that caused the termination and provide any evidence that shows a pattern of offense or previous discipline leading to the final incident. If no previous discipline was involved, focus on explaining why the final offense was unacceptable.

6. Give a Closing Statement

This is your chance to summarize the evidence presented in your case and petition for the judge to ultimately rule in your favor. Many employers pass on this because they have not prepared for it. Don’t miss your chance!

Handled properly, an unemployment hearing can be an effective way to lower your unemployment costs.


Michael McPherson is a partner at Unemployment Tracker, a software company dedicated to providing unemployment cost management software solutions to organizations of all sizes and types. He can be reached at michael@unemploymenttracker.com.

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