Will my referee allow a telephone hearing if I can’t be there?

A telephone hearing allows you to participate in your referee hearing for unemployment compensation benefits by phone.

A telephone hearing allows you to participate in your referee hearing for unemployment compensation benefits by phone.

Suppose you apply for unemployment compensation benefits and are denied. After you appeal this decision, you receive a Notice of Hearing in the mail. At the hearing, you have to present your case to a referee who will decide whether or not to grant you benefits. Your employer might also be there, presenting a case as to why you should not be eligible for benefits. The referee hearing is crucial. It is your only chance to present testimony and witnesses concerning your application for benefits. What if you cannot be there in person? Thankfully, in certain circumstances, you are allowed to participate in your referee hearing by telephone.

What circumstances justify a telephone hearing?

Not every request for a telephone hearing can be justified. You can only receive permission to testify by telephone in certain circumstances. You can participate by telephone if you have a compelling:

  • Employment reason,
  • Transportation reason,
  • Health reason, or
  • Other compelling issue.

Let’s say your referee hearing is scheduled to take place in Pittsburgh, PA but you have relocated to Washington, D.C. Since you live at least 50 miles from the hearing location, you can be granted a telephone hearing.

Be aware that documentation may be requested if you cannot participate in person, especially if your reason is because of a health issue. The other party (e.g., your employer) has a right to object when you request a telephone hearing. If your employer wants you to participate in person, you may have to prove to the referee, through documentation, that it is not possible.

How do I request a telephone hearing?

Look at your Notice of Hearing. It identifies the referee who was assigned to your appeal. You can send your request to this referee by email or fax. If the referee decides to allow a telephone hearing, you will receive a phone call from the referee’s office to let you know. A new Notice of Hearing will be mailed to you. Your hearing will be rescheduled so that all parties have at least 14 days notice that you will be participating by telephone. You can also ask your employment attorney to request a telephone hearing for you.

Is there a different procedure for a telephone hearing?

The hearing proceeds the same way over the phone as it does if you were to appear in person. Preparing for a telephone hearing is a bit different though. Instructions appear on your Notice of Hearing. Before a telephone hearing you must:

  • Submit any documents you wish to use in your testimony to the referee’s office AT LEAST 5 days before the date of the hearing so that they can be forwarded to the other parties,
  • Make sure the referee’s office has the correct phone number so you can be reached on the day of the hearing, AND
  • Keep your phone line open at least 15 minutes prior to the hearing so that the referee can reach you.

Once you accept the referee’s call, the hearing will proceed as it normally does. Unless the other parties (attorneys, employer, witnesses, etc.) were also given permission to participate by telephone, they will appear in person.

Contact an Employment Attorney for your Unemployment Appeal

It can greatly benefit you to have an attorney present at your hearing. KM&A represents clients across Pennsylvania. For a free and immediate consultation, call us in Pittsburgh at 412-626-5626 or in Philadelphia at 610-616-5686. We can also be reached at lawyer@lawkm.com.