For a successful appeal hearing, a number of items must happen to ensure a favorable outcome. Without an unemployment lawyer, you will be at a significant disadvantage. You specialize in important working knowledge, but an unemployment lawyer is an expert at unemployment hearings.
Should You Go to the Hearing Without a Lawyer?
The straightforward answer is no. However, if you are able to meet all the criteria in the list below, then you might be able to handle the unemployment hearing. Hearings are complex, especially if you need to continue to appeal the decision.
- Cite to the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence to object to a document, testimony, or witness.
- Introduce your evidence (even your own testimony!) in a way that avoids objections.
- Respond with the correct legal arguments when the employer raises an evidentiary objection.
- Cross-examine witnesses who testify for the employer.
- Make a coherent 10-15 minute speech when your are told to “make your case.”
- Identify and utilize witnesses to bolster your case.
- Handle the Referee interrupting you with loaded questions.
- Request subpoenas in advance of the hearing.
Finally, a short test. As you read this, recite the elements of your claim or defense that you must prove to win your case. But remember, this is just a short test and a short list. Everything discussed here has been litigated over many years and there is a body of case law interpreting each concept. If are comfortable with all of the above items, you are probably an unemployment attorney yourself. If not, you should contact an unemployment lawyer to fight your appeal.
Top Reason for Loss of Appeal: Improper Introduction or Objection to Evidence
The primary hearing with the Referee is the first and only chance that evidence is introduced to prove that you should be eligible for UC benefits. Without an unemployment lawyer, you can easily share improper or prejudicial evidence that will become the reason for your eligibility denial. All following appeals will become more difficult since the foundation of the first appeal is faulty.
To Lawyer or Not to Lawyer: Choose a Winning Team
At your appeal hearing, the employer will testify to the events leading to your unemployment and will often have a lawyer present with them to walk them through their testimony. An unemployment lawyer knows what your employer can and cannot testify about. If you allow your employer to testify to something that otherwise wouldn’t be allowed, you risk losing your appeal. This will likely happen if you appear without representation.
You will be responsible for walking the Referee through the events that led to your unemployment. As you will undoubtedly be passionate about your testimony, there is a risk you make get overly heated and testify to something reckless that could jeopardize your case. Your employer will undoubtedly have a lawyer to aid them in testifying and so should you.
Referee’s Decision: Determining Who to Believe
The Referee must determine which party’s testimony to believe. This means weighing the arguments of both parties and considering all tangible evidence that both parties share. Although not final, a referee’s decision has serious consequences on whether or not you receive UC benefits.
The employer’s lawyer will try to discredit your testimony by asking you difficult and complex questions about the events leading to your unemployment. The lawyer’s objective is to get you to admit that you were at fault. Meanwhile, your unemployment lawyer will temper their questions and help you stay on task so you don’t accidentally say something that may affect your unemployment eligibility. In addition, your unemployment lawyer quizzes your employer with difficult questions, strives to discredit their testimony, and presents your best case before the Referee.
A Referee will also consider documentation and records kept by either party. Your unemployment lawyer knows what documents your employer can and cannot introduce at an unemployment appeal hearing and can ensure that only proper documentation and records are allowed. One single document can determine the outcome of your entire appeal and whether you will receive unemployment benefits.
All evidence presented at your appeal hearing becomes part of your unemployment “record” and cannot be removed. One piece of evidence can decide your entire case. Your response to an employer’s question can risk your eligibility. Alone, you’re most likely to lose your UC benefits.
What type of legal help do you need? If you are not sure, call us at 412-626-5626
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