Florida Appeals Process – What Happens When you’re Denied Benefits?
You have the right to appeal any decision regarding your unemployment benefits. You can request a redetermination of the Wage Decision or request an appeal to the Office of Appeals. You may request an appeal on separation and other issues.
You must file your appeal within 20 days of the mailing date of the determination you wish to appeal. You may file the appeal online using CONNECT or file the request in writing via fax or mail. If you file in writing, don’t forget to sign the request and to include your social security number or Claimant ID.
Office of Appeals (OA)
MSC 347, Caldwell Building
107 East Madison Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-4143
Once the OA receives your request and approves, you will receive a Notice of Hearing. The hearing may be held by telephone or in person. The notice will give you:
- The date, time and place of the hearing
- The issue to be addressed
- The parties involved and their contact information
- Instructions from the OA on the appeals hearing
The hearing will be held in front of an Appeals Referee. The Referee will act as the judge and is trained in the law. The hearing will have characteristics of a trial, but is less formal. Your former employer will receive notice and will have the right to appear and present testimony in their interest.
Preparing for an Unemployment Appeal Hearing in FL
You will gather evidence, witnesses and prepare an argument to prove your case. All the evidence you present should lead logically to the conclusion that the Referee should reverse the original determination in your favor.
You have the right to have someone represent you at the hearing. You may hire an attorney or ask a friend to do it. Many people represent themselves. You may seek free assistance from Florida Legal Aid. If you hire a lawyer, the Appeals Office will have to approve the fee you pay the attorney.
You have the right to have a witness or witnesses testify on your behalf. You are responsible for making sure they have the information necessary to participate in the hearing and that they arrive or appear in the hearing.
Your witness should have first-hand knowledge regarding the issue to be addressed. It isn’t enough that they “heard about” what happened. The Referee is not likely to listen to character evidence unless it becomes relevant to your separation.
If there is a witness with important testimony, but who may be reluctant to testify, you may request a subpoena from the Referee. A subpoena will compel the witness to appear. You should request the subpoena as soon as possible. Make the request in writing and make sure it is signed.
Any evidence you want to use should be relevant to the issue to be addressed in the hearing. You can use business documents like time sheets gathered in the normal course of business. If you want to use audio or video evidence, the persons in the recording should be available for the hearing to authenticate it. If they cannot, the Referee may or may not allow you to present the evidence. If the Referee decides to use it, it will not have much impact on your decision.
You must present copies of the evidence you plan to present to all parties in the hearing, including the referee. You should send a copy to the OA and to the opposing party.
If you need to reschedule the hearing, you must make a written request to the Referee as soon as possible. You must have a substantial and compelling reason for the request, like a preexisting legal obligation. The Referee will respond to the request in writing. If you don’t hear from them, you should prepare for the hearing.
Any other requests for assistance, like a translator or disability accommodations should be made in writing and well in advance of the hearing date. The state will provide them for you if make your request in a timely manner.
What Happens During an Unemployment Appeal Hearing in FL
The hearing will proceed similarly to a trial. You will present your testimony under oath. The Referee will explain procedures to both parties. Both parties will have the opportunity to present testimony, witnesses and evidence.
You will have the burden of proof if the issue is something you would have knowledge about, such as whether you performed adequate job searches or whether you quit without good cause. If the issue is whether you were dismissed for misconduct connected to the work, the employer will have the burden of proof.
You will have the opportunity to question the employer regarding their testimony, and they will have the opportunity to question you regarding yours. The Referee may ask questions of any party at any time.
The Referee will hold an impartial hearing. They understand that you are not a professional, and consider that when you present your case.
Both parties to the hearing may make a closing statement at the end. The Referee will make the decision regarding the issues after the hearing is over. Then, the OA will mail both parties a copy of the decision.
If you disagree with the decision, you may file an appeal with the Reemployment Assistance Appeals Commission. You may file this appeal online; however, the Referee’s decision will include instructions on how to appeal to the Commission.
For more information, read the bulletin provided by the Office of Appeals.