Referee Hearing for Unemployment: What to Know

referee hearing

The purpose of a referee hearing is to present your case to a referee who will decide if you are eligible for unemployment benefits.

What happens at a referee hearing?

If you are asking yourself this question, you likely already received your Notice of Determination, appealed it, and received a Notice of Hearing. The purpose of a referee hearing is to present your case to a referee who will decide whether or not you should be eligible for unemployment compensation (“UC”) benefits. Your employer may show up as well and present his or her case as to why you should not be eligible for UC benefits.

Preparing for a Referee Hearing

  • Review your Notice of Hearing. It will tell you where and when your hearing will take place.
  • Be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes early to check in. Arriving 30 minutes early, however, is ideal, as it will allow you more time to review the “Referee File,” a file containing all documents you and your employer submitted to be reviewed at the hearing.
  • After reviewing the file, ideally with your employment attorney, you should return it to the person who signed you in. Your employer has a right to view it also.

Beginning a Referee Hearing

When the hearing is supposed to begin, the referee will come out to the waiting room to get all parties involved. This includes you, your employer, and witnesses you or your employer brought to testify. The referee will lead everyone to a small conference room. The referee will be seated at the head of the table and the opposing parties will sit opposite each other. Once in the room, the referee will go on record. Every referee hearing is recorded. You can request a copy of the transcript to review, should you later choose to appeal the referee’s hearing.

Once everyone is seated, the referee will:

  • Introduce him or herself and ask the parties to introduce themselves for the record
  • Introduce all the exhibits (AKA all evidence the parties submitted) from the Referee File
  • Ask if the parties object to any exhibits being presented to the record
  • Ask general questions about your employment such as when you were hired, what pay you earned, etc.

The record of this referee hearing sets the stage for further appeals. Having an employment attorney at this stage is extremely beneficial. This is your one chance to introduce information and evidence to the record. Also, this is your one chance to object to any information and evidence from your employer (e.g., for hearsay). An employment attorney will know how to prepare the best case for you and know what to object to in order to prove your eligibility for UC benefits.

Presenting your case at a Referee Hearing

After everyone is settled in and the referee asks preliminary questions, the presentation of the case begins. You and your employer will each have a turn to present a case as to whether or not you should be eligible for benefits. The issues involved determine how you will proceed.

Under certain laws, it is your duty to prove eligibility. Under others, it is your employer’s duty to prove ineligibility. If you hold the burden of proof, you will go first. After presenting your testimony, your employer will have an opportunity to ask you questions about your testimony. Then the employer will take his or her turn and you will be able to ask questions. If your employer holds the burden of proof, he or she will testify first. You can talk to your employment lawyer about the specific issues involved in your case and how this affects the procedure.

The referee will conclude the hearing and all parties can leave. You will receive the referee’s decision by mail within 2 to 4 weeks. Remember, you can appeal this decision to the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (“UCBR”), should you disagree.

Contact a KM&A attorney for your unemployment appeal

We represent clients across Pennsylvania. Call us in Pittsburgh at 412-626-5626 or in Philadelphia at 215-618-9185 for a free and immediate consultation. We can also be reached by email at