Our firm is often retained to counsel or represent individuals who have applied for or are eligible for unemployment compensation benefits. We can explain the legal requirements and generally answer any questions you may have regarding eligibility, disqualification or coverage. In many cases we can provide you with the necessary information needed to successfully obtain benefits.
In some cases, we are actually retained to represent employees during the claims process. This occurs most often in connection with an a telephone appeal hearing before an unemployment appeal referee. These telephone appeal hearings sometimes result when either party wants to challenge the initial determination on the claim. Both the employer can challenge a decision to grant or deny benefits by informing the Commission of their desire to appeal within 20 days of receipt of the initial determination. Although these hearings are conducted over the telephone, since they involve the presentation of witnesses and evidence, we are sometimes retained to handle these hearings on behalf of employees.
Please contact us at least a week before your hearing if you want to retain us to represent you or if you would like to ask us about the hearing process so that you will be better prepared to present your case. The following information may be helpful to anyone who is preparing for an unemployment compensation telephone hearing:
UNEMPLOYMENT APPEAL TELEPHONE HEARINGS
Be ready on time to receive the hearing officer’s telephone call. If you do not receive a call within ten minutes after the scheduled hearing time, contact the deputy clerk whose telephone number appears on the Notice of Telephone Hearing. Claimants will be called at the telephone number shown on the hearing notice unless a different number is provided before the hearing. It is each party’s responsibility to remove any call-blocking service that would prevent the telephone call from reaching you.
The decision from this hearing will replace the determination that was appealed. Only one hearing level is provided by law. To protect your rights, you must participate even if the other party filed the appeal. If you cannot attend as scheduled, immediately follow the instructions below to request rescheduling. Otherwise, you may receive an unfavorable decision. A claimant who receives an unfavorable decision will have to repay benefits that should not have been received.
Be prepared to present evidence on all issues listed on the Notice of Hearing. The decision will be based only on evidence presented at the hearing. A second appeal level exists, but includes only a review of the existing record, not a new hearing.
If the party who filed the appeal participates, a hearing will be held. The decision will be based on the evidence presented. If you don’t participate, your evidence will not be considered. If you filed the appeal and do not participate, your case will be dismissed.
Your rights as a party during the hearing include, the right to:
- Testify in your own behalf;
- Present documents and other evidence;
- Question your own witnesses;
- Question the opposing party's witnesses;
- Examine and object to evidence presented ;
- Explain or rebut evidence presented; and
- Make a closing statement at the end of the hearing.
In order to arrange for any witness that you believe is necessary for the hearing you should contact and ask the witness to testify. The best witness is one with personal knowledge of the facts. A witness who was present at an event is much better than one who was told about it by someone else. If possible, you and your witness(es) should be at the same location for the hearing. If a witness cannot be at your location and must be contacted at a different telephone number, provide the witness’ name and telephone number to the deputy clerk whose name and telephone number appear on the Notice of Telephone Hearing. Instruct the witness to be available at the scheduled hearing time and to remain available until dismissed by you or the appeals referee.
If a witness refuses to testify voluntarily, a subpoena can be requested by writing to the address on the Notice of Hearing. Mail or fax the request as soon as possible, so the subpoena can be served before the hearing. Include the case docket number; the witness’ name, address, and telephone number (if available), as well as a detailed description of any document(s) the witness should furnish for the hearing.
If the issue is whether you were able and available for work, send a copy of your work search contact sheets to the Appeals Office before the hearing. Include each job contact date and method, as well as each employer contact’s name and address.
If the appeal does not appear to have been filed within the time allowed by law, the referee will first take evidence on the timeliness of the appeal. If timeliness is listed as an issue, the person who filed the appeal would be an important witness. The case will be dismissed without competent evidence of timely filing.
A postponement may be requested if there is a compelling reason why you cannot participate as scheduled. The request can be made in writing before the hearing or on the record during the hearing. Include the reason you cannot participate and what, if any, attempts you made to re-arrange your schedule so you could participate. The referee will let you know in writing if the request is granted. If a written reply is not received, assume the request was denied. Be available for the hearing and prepared to present your case.
If you missed a hearing for a necessary, compelling reason, you may request re-opening within twenty calendar days after the decision was mailed. Instructions will be included on the decision. Any request for rehearing must be filed on the Internet at www.fluidnow.com/appeals, or by mailing or faxing a written request to the address or fax number on the Notice of Hearing or Decision. No other methods are permitted. Include the Docket Number or the claimant’s social security number and the reason for not attending. Only compelling and necessary reasons constitute good cause. If a rehearing request is granted, you must present evidence of good cause at the new hearing and show due diligence in trying to re-arrange your schedule or requesting postponement. If good cause is not shown, the prior decision will be reinstated.
The hearing will be in English. Translation will be arranged for claimants who indicate a primary language other than English when filing for benefits. If a translator is needed and the Notice of Hearing does not indicate a translator was arranged, have the deputy clerk contacted at once to advise what language is needed so translation arrangements can be made. The deputy clerk’s telephone number is on the Notice of Hearing.
Once the hearing begins, the appeals referee assigned to the case will:
- Obtain permission to record from each participant and electronically record the hearing.
- Explain the issues, purpose of the hearing, order of testimony, and other procedures;
- Identify the determination on appeal and make known the contents of the case file;
- Place all witnesses under oath or affirmation;
- Question parties and witnesses to obtain the facts;
- Assist parties as they question witnesses; and
- Determine if testimony and documents being offered should be received and considered.
If you disagree with the decision, you can request review by the Unemployment Appeals Commission (UAC). Instructions for requesting review are on the decision. Any request for review must be filed within 20 calendar days after the decision was mailed. The UAC will not hold another hearing; its decision will be based on the testimony and other evidence presented to the referee and how the referee used that evidence to reach a decision. Therefore, presenting all of your evidence at the hearing is very important. Upon completing its review, the UAC will mail a written order to all parties.
Considerations Regarding Eligibility for Benefits and Filing a Claim
Your eligibility for collecting unemployment benefits depends primarily upon the type of employment you’ve held and the reason for separation from your most recent job. You may collect unemployment benefits if you are either unemployed or partially employed.
You may apply for unemployment benefits online. Here are some answers to questions about unemployment benefits in Florida:
How long must you have worked to be eligible for benefits?
You must have worked and earned wages during the first four of the last five calendar quarters (beginning in January, April, July and October). These five quarters are known as the “base period.” During that time period, you must:
1. Have been paid wages in two or more calendar quarters;
2. Have total wages during the base period of at least 150% of the wages during the highest quarter in the base period; and
3. Have earned at least $3,400 during the base period
Under What Circumstances Will You be Eligible for Benefits?
In most cases, you must have been involuntarily separated from your job to receive benefits. Furthermore, that separation must be for reasons other than misconduct. You are eligible for benefits if you were fired for unsatisfactory job performance, rather than “intentional or controllable acts…which show a deliberate disregard of the employer’s interest.” In some limited cases, you may receive benefits if you quit your job, provided you can demonstrate that you meet certain criteria. For example, if you were fired or you resigned due to a medical related issue, you could be eligible for benefits assuming you are currently seeking other employment.
How Much Will You Receive in Benefits?
The smallest amount you will receive is $32 per week and the largest benefit you can receive is $275 per week. Your benefits are calculated by taking the highest amount of money earned during any quarter in the base period and dividing it by 26, subject to the minimum and maximum limits of $32 and $275. You can also have a part time job and still receive benefits, but any earnings of $52 or more will be deducted from your benefits.
What Job Search Requirements Must You Fulfill?
Anyone collecting benefits must be able to work and actively seeking work. You will be required to keep records related to your job search and provide those records to the state upon request.
How do You file a claim for unemployment benefits?
The easiest way to apply for unemployment in Florida is to apply for unemployment benefits online. You may also apply via telephone by calling 1-800-204-2418.