If the Alaska Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance division denies your claim for benefits, you have the right to appeal their decision for any reason. You’ll have a limited amount of time in which to file an appeal with the division’s Appeals Unit. If you file a timely appeal, you’ll receive an administrative hearing before a judge called a Hearing Officer (HO). The hearing may be held by telephone or in person. You’ll be able to use witnesses and evidence to make the argument that you should receive benefits.
You’ll receive a notice from the DOL that your claim is denied. The notice will provide instructions on how to file the appeal. You will have 30 days from the mailing date on that notice in which to file the appeal. File ASAP. If you do not file a timely appeal, you may lose your right to appeal. You may have to show that circumstances beyond your control caused you to file late.
How to File an Unemployment Appeal in Alaska
Your appeal must be in writing. You may mail, fax or email your request for the appeal. Your request should include:
- Your name and current contact information
- Date and determination number of the decision you are appealing
- A brief statement of the reason for the appeal
The contact information for the Appeals Unit follows. This is where you should request your appeal. You may also file by telephone at the toll free number.
Email: [email protected]
Juneau: P.O. Box 115509
JUNEAU, AK 99811-5509
Fax: (907) 465-3374
Toll free: (800) 232-4762
Preparing for the Hearing
Within 10 days, the Appeals Unit should mail a Notice of Hearing or Notice of Telephone Hearing to you. This notice will include instructions on what to do next, as well as the date, time and/or place of the hearing.
Make a note of the date and time of the hearing. If you have a scheduling conflict, you will probably have to change your schedule around the hearing date. The hearing officer is unlikely to reschedule the hearing unless you can show a substantial and compelling reason why. If you believe you must reschedule the hearing, contact the Appeals Unit ASAP.
If you will need special accommodations, such as disability assistance or a language translator, notify the Appeals Unit. The unit will provide these things for you. You may not use a personal language translator in the hearing.
You will be able to exercise rights during the hearing. You will have the right to representation, to present witness testimony and evidence. Preparing to exercise these rights and developing a logical, fact-based argument are the key to prevailing at the hearing.
In most cases, your former employer will receive notice of the hearing as well, especially if the issue is whether you quit without good cause or were discharged for misconduct. The employer will have the same rights as you during the hearing.
You may have an attorney represent you at the hearing or a designated agent or friend. Many represent themselves at hearings without difficulty. If you plan to hire a lawyer, you should notify the appeals division as soon as possible. Attorneys have specific rules to follow.
Whomever you chose to represent you, you must provide contact information for that person if they are not an attorney.
If you want to have someone testify at the hearing, they should be prepared to testify as to the facts regarding your separation from work (if that is the issue of your appeal). They should have first-hand knowledge about what happened. Character witnesses do not usually provide helpful testimony unless your character is at issue.
You may present relevant documents that can help prove your case. You can present paperwork regularly produced in the course of business, like time sheets or notices from your supervisor. Other written evidence should be presented if you can have the person who created the document present at the hearing.
You have to provide copies of any evidence that you will present to the Hearing Officer and the opposing party (your former employer). If you do not provide copies prior to the hearing, the HO may decide to exclude your evidence from the hearing.
You may mail, email or fax them to any Appeal Tribunal addresses or fax numbers. Bring your copies to the hearing or have them with you if the hearing is by telephone.
Someone you want to testify may be reluctant to participate. There may exist evidence that someone like your former employer may not want to give you. In these cases, you may request that the HO issue a subpoena. The subpoena will compel the witness to appear or a person to turn over the evidence you need.
You should contact the appeals division quickly if you want to request a subpoena. You should make your request in writing. The request should contain specific information on the evidence or witness you need so that the HO can serve the subpoena. The HO has discretion on whether you issue a subpoena.
If the HO denies your subpoena request (you may not know until the hearing date), you should attempt to introduce the evidence during the hearing so that it is on the record. If you lose your appeal, you can bring the matter up when appealing the HO’s decision later.
Gather all your evidence and testimony. Make sure that it all ties together logically. You will want to make a fact-based, logical argument to the HO during the hearing. When you make an argument, it’s best to leave out financial issues or to try to appeal to the judge’s emotions. The HO is only interested in the facts of the case. The judge will use those facts to make a decision.
One party will have the burden of proof at the hearing. That means they must show evidence that leads the judge to conclude that it is more likely than not that they are telling the truth. Usually, if the issue is whether you quit without good cause, you will have the burden to show you had good cause. If the issue is whether you were discharged for misconduct, the employer will carry the burden to show you committed misconduct as defined by law.
At the Hearing
Hearings are held in person or by telephone in front of the HO. Find the location of the hearing on your notice. Make sure you can arrive early. Make sure your witnesses can get there on time as well. If you have a telephone hearing, simply be next to the telephone when the time arrives. Your witnesses must be ready as well.
If you are substantially late or you miss the hearing completely, the HO is likely to dismiss your case and let the original determination stand. You would have to request a reopening of your case to show cause why you missed the hearing.
Your former employer may also appeal determinations. You should appear at those hearings. If you did not request the appeal, but you miss the hearing, you won’t be able to present your side of the story.
The HO will conduct the hearing in a similar fashion to a court trial. The procedure is less formal, however, the HO will expect you to behave as you would in court.
You will be sworn in and receive instructions from the HO. Both parties to the hearing will present their testimony, evidence and witnesses under oath. Both parties will be able to “cross examine” the other party’s testimony and witnesses. Both parties may make closing statements.
The HO will decide based on the facts presented at the hearing and an application of Alaska’s unemployment law to those facts. The HO will mail the decision to both parties. The HO may reverse the original decision, modify it, allow the original decision to stand, or send it back to the DOL for further review.
The HO will mail a decision within two weeks, noting the facts and law used to arrive at the decision. If you disagree, you have a next-level appeal you may request. The appeal is to the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development. The HO’s decision will contain the instructions and information you need to file this appeal.
The Appeals Unit provides an interesting section called Ways to Lose Your Appeal. I recommend reading it.
It is unlikely your case will be completely unique. Search these databases of cases to see how the Appeals Tribunal and other bodies have decided prior cases. It will help you develop a good argument.