The Unemployment Appeal Process in Rhode Island
A Rhode Island Supreme Court recently awarded unemployment benefits to a truck driver in a decision that shows how important unemployment appeals can be. The driver made unflattering comments about his supervisor on Facebook. His employer fired him, and the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT) denied that man’s claim for benefits because they determined his employer discharged him for misconduct.
The Court found that there was no basis to determine the private conduct was connected to work. Under the state’s law – and that of most states – misconduct must be “connected to work” if the state will deny benefits on that basis.
When you file an appeal to a denial of benefits, your first stop will be an administrative hearing, not the State Supreme Court. However, taking the case as seriously as you would if standing in front of a justice may help get you benefits without having to go all the way there.
How to File an Unemployment Appeal in RI
When the DLT denies your claim for unemployment benefits in RI, you will receive a notice that informs you of the denial and of your right to appeal to the Central Adjudication CAU (CAU). You may appeal any decision the department makes. Your appeal will grant you the right to make your case in an administrative hearing in front of a judge called a referee.
Note that you will have 15 calendar days from the mailing date of the notice in which to file the appeal. If you file late, you will need to show that circumstances beyond your control caused you to be late. Otherwise, the CAU may allow the original denial to stand.
You may file online or in writing by fax or mail.
Central Adjudication CAU
1511 Pontiac Avenue
Cranston, RI 02920
Phone: (401) 462-8300
Fax: (401) 462-8318
If you file in writing, you will need to include:
- Your name and social security number
- Current contact information
- The date and number of the decision you are appealing
- A short statement that you are requesting an appeal and why
Preparing for the Hearing
When the CAU has processed your appeal, you will receive a Notice of Hearing or a Notice of Telephone Hearing. You will also receive information on your rights and the hearing procedure. Most importantly, you’ll receive notice on the date, time and/or place of the hearing.
Check for scheduling conflicts with the hearing date. You will likely have to change your schedule. The CAU does not grant scheduling changes for personal reasons. You will have to show a good cause to change the date. If you must, you can request a schedule change with the CAU as soon as possible.
If you need a language translator or disability assistance to participate in the hearing, notify the CAU as soon as possible. They will provide these services for you. You cannot use your own translator.
During the hearing, you will be able to exercise rights similar to those afforded during a court trial. You may present evidence, witness testimony and you may have someone represent you before the referee.
Your former employer will receive notice of the hearing if the issue involves your separation from work. They will have the right to appear at the hearing and present their side of the story.
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 CAU as soon as possible. Attorneys have specific rules to follow.
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 must provide copies of the evidence you’ll use to the referee and the opposing party in advance of the hearing. You should have all your evidence ready days before the hearing date. If you can’t provide a copy to the opposing party or the referee before the hearing, the referee may not allow you to enter the evidence as an exhibit, or be forced to stop the hearing and reschedule.
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 referee 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 CAU 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 referee can serve the subpoena. The referee has discretion on whether you issue a subpoena.
If the referee 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 referee’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 referee during the hearing.
At the Hearing
If you have an in-person hearing, arrive at least 10 minutes early. It will be your responsibility to make sure your witnesses arrive on time as well.
The CAU’s Notice of Telephone Hearing should have instructions on how you, and your witnesses should proceed to participate in the hearing.
If you cannot make the hearing because of some serious emergency, call the CAU immediately or as soon as possible. You may be able to reschedule your hearing, or you may request to reopen the hearing if you have a compelling reason. If you are simply late to the hearing or miss the call from the referee, and you are the one who filed the appeal, the referee may decide to allow the original DLT decision to stand.
The Referee will conduct the hearing in a similar fashion to a court trial. The procedure is less formal, however. You will be sworn in and receive instructions from the Referee. 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 Referee will decide based on the facts presented at the hearing and an application of Rhode Island’s unemployment law to those facts. The Referee will mail the decision to both parties. The Referee may reverse the original decision, modify it, allow the original decision to stand, or send it back to the DLT for further review.
If you disagree with the Referee’s decision, you may file an appeal to the Board of Review. The Referee’s decision will provide instructions on how to process that appeal.
A good way to understand how the CAU will arrive at their decisions is to review past court cases with the same issue as you. You can do that at the Board of Review site.
Review the laws that govern unemployment insurance in Rhode Island.
Email the BoR: DLT.BORinfo@dlt.ri.gov