Appealing a UC Decision
Q: If the Job Center denies your application for unemployment compensation benefits, can you appeal?
A: Yes. You (or your former employer) may appeal an unemployment compensation determination. If the UC Service Center denies your application, you can complete a form online for the service center listed on the notice of determination, pick up a form at your local PA Careerlink office, download a form, or simply write a letter that specifically states that you are appealing the decision and the reasons you disagree with the decision. You will need to remember to include your social security number and to sign and date the letter. You should send your appeal to the address on the initial unemployment compensation determination letter. Your appeal must be received by the Service Center or postmarked within 15 calendar days of the date the initial determination was mailed to you (43 P.S. § 821(e)). The last day to appeal is recorded on the determination notice. When the UC Service Center receives your appeal, it will schedule a hearing in front of referee. You will receive written notice of the time and place of the referee’s hearing.
Q: What happens at the referee’s hearing?
A:The referee’s hearing is like a trial, only a little less formal. At the hearing, both you and your former employer will have the opportunity to present your side of the story. You will be able to present evidence and witnesses, and cross-examine your employer’s witnesses. You can force your former employer to testify. You can also request the referee to issue subpoenas that would force a witness to attend the hearing, or force your former employer to supply you with relevant documents (43 P.S. § 826). If the referee denies your request for a subpoena, you should object to this at the hearing. Although, the referee will probably not change his or her mind, this will allow you to appeal the issue later, if you lose at the hearing (Simpson v. UCBR, 469 A.2d 733 (1984)).
Q: Will you know what the issues are before you go to the hearing?
A: Yes. The only issues which are permitted to be addressed at the referee’s hearing are those upon which the initial unemployment compensation decision was based. These issues will be spelled out in the unemployment compensation determination and the Notice of Hearing that you receive. The one exception is that whether you are “able and available” to work may always be brought up. So, if your former employer brings up any issues that were not a basis of the initial determination (other than “able and available”), you should object. For instance, if you were denied benefits because you “voluntarily quit”, but at the hearing your employer starts arguing that you “refused suitable work”, you should object. In addition, if your employer reported to the job center that you were fired for being tardy, you should object if your employer tries to bring up new reasons for your firing at the referee’s hearing. (Corressel v. UCBR, 385 A.2d 615 (1978)).
Q: Can people testify about rumors at the referee’s hearing?
A: No. People can only testify about those things that they actually observed. Testifying about things that someone else told you is called hearsay. If a witness for your former employer testifies to something that he or she did not directly observe, you can say, “Objection, hearsay.” (Gordon Terminal Services Company vs. UCBR, 211 A. 3rd 893 (Commonwealth Court, June 3, 2019)).
Q: What do you do if you disagree with the referee’s decision?
A: If you lose at the referee’s hearing, you can appeal your case to the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (UCBR). The UCBR is a three-person panel that reviews referees’ decisions. The referee’s decision will include instructions on how to appeal. You must file your appeal within 15 days of when the referee’s decision was mailed (43 P.S. § 822), including weekend days.
Q: What do you do if you disagree with the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review?
A: If you disagree with the UCBR’s decision, you have two options. First, you can request that the UCBR reconsider its decision; you must file this request within 15 days of the UCBR’s decision, including weekend days. You can also appeal the UCBR’s decision to the PA Commonwealth Court; you must file this appeal within 30 days of the UCBR’s decision (Pa. R.A.P. 1512), including weekend days. There is no cost to appeal the case to Commonwealth Court. Requesting the UCBR to reconsider its decision does not extend the 30-day time limit to file an appeal with the Commonwealth Court (Pa. R.A.P. 1701(b)(3)). However, you can request a UCBR reconsideration and appeal your case to the Commonwealth Court at the same time.