So you lost your job or one of your workers is out of a job. How do you deal with unemployment compensation?
The former worker applies for benefits, which may be done online. After sending a completed application, the Employment Security Department will send a request for more information to the former worker’s mailing address. After communicating with the employer, a written “Initial Determination” granting or denying benefits will be mailed. The worker or employer that loses has the option to appeal within 30 days.
On appeal, many employers secure representation from human resources or a lawyer who practices employment law, but few workers acquire representation. People have legitimate reasons to go-it-alone: maybe they are resourceful and intelligent, or spending money on a lawyer is money they don’t think they have.
The fact is that your chances of winning greatly improve with representation. According to a New York study, 90% of the claimants are unrepresented, and those with representation enjoyed a success rate of nearly double that of the claimants without representation.
If there is an appeal, then the Office of Administrative Hearings will conduct a hearing. Most always the hearings are by telephone. You may ask for an in-person hearing, but usually these hearings occur in highly unusual circumstances. Interpreters are available.
The aggrieved party has the option to appeal within 30 days to the Commissioner of the Employment Security Department. There, the Review Judge will review what had been said at the hearing. Each party may submit a 5-page maximum response. The Review Judge may make new findings of fact or conclusions of law, or may send the case back down to the Office of Administrative Hearings to do the hearing over again.
If you lose on appeal to the Review Judge, then you have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Superior Court, which is governed under RCW 34.05.570(3). After filing, there will be an opportunity to submit a pre-hearing brief, or a document that argues why you should win according to the law and facts in the record. The other side has an opportunity to respond, and then the aggrieved party has a change to submit a reply document. The hearings are in front of a judge and usually last about 30 minutes.
The main idea is avoid appeal - talk to an employment lawyer to help you avoid mistakes and long waiting periods between appeals.