Steps in the Unemployment Compensation Procedure

Last Updated On: 4/23/2015 7:09:12 PM

View the Unemployment Compensation Toolkit for more information on Unemployment Compensation.

What Are The Procedures For Getting Unemployment Compensation Benefits?

Filing for Unemployment Compensation benefits can be a very simple step at the local Unemployment office. Most cases are decided at the local office, on the basis of fairly short and simple information.

If your claim is denied, you have the right to appeal. But the early stages of the appeal process move fast. You need to be ready to bring witnesses, documents, or other evidence “right away.”

If your claim is approved, the employer has the right to appeal. The process will move fast. You need to be ready to bring witnesses, documents, or other evidence “right away.”

This article is to help you understand the “process,” and what steps are involved along the way. That will help you understand what you need to be doing to be ready for each stage.

Can You Give Me A Short List Of The Steps In The Process?

1 -- File Claim for Benefits. Go to the local unemployment office. Fill out the forms to file a claim. You will have to explain to a local worker what happened and why you are unemployed. The worker will type a written version of what you said and ask you to sign it. Read this carefully before signing; make sure they correct any misunderstandings.

2 – First decision, called the “Deputy’s Decision.” This decision is based on the information you gave unemployment when you signed up, and any information the employer provided.

If Deputy Decision is not in your favor, you have only eight days to go to the unemployment office to sign your appeal notice.

3 – ALJ Decision. At this stage you will have a hearing and then get a decision from the Administrative Law Judge. In general, this is your only chance to present evidence and witnesses. If you don’t bring all the evidence you need, you probably won’t get another chance to provide evidence.  

If the ALJ Decision is not in your favor, you have only eight days to go to the unemployment office to sign your appeal notice.

4 – Board of Review Decision. The next appeal is to a three-person “Board of Review” in Charleston. Normally no new evidence can be submitted. The Board will read the typed transcript of what was said at your hearing, and decide whether the ALJ was correct or not correct. Appeal arguments usually last only 5 or 10 minutes for both sides combined. You can drive to Charleston to appear in person. You can submit a written statement of why you believe the ALJ decision was right or wrong, and not appear in person. Or you can do both, submit a written statement ahead of time AND appear in person to answer any questions the Board may have.

If the Board of Review Decision is not in your favor, you have thirty days to file an appeal in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County. This is an absolute, no exceptions rule. The law does not permit late appeals, no matter what.

5 - Circuit Court of Kanawha County decision. This stage is where things slow down, and can be more complicated. Again, normally no new evidence can be submitted. Usually there are no in-person proceedings with the judge. Everything is done on written arguments. It isn’t unusual for the Circuit Court to take 1 to 2 years before a giving you a decision.

If the Circuit Court Decision is not in your favor, you have thirty days to file a “Notice of Appeal” in the Supreme Court of West Virginia.

6 - WV Supreme Court of Appeals decision. Normally no new evidence can be submitted. Written arguments are required. In some cases the Supreme Court will schedule in-person oral argument.  

If the Supreme Court Decision is not in your favor, that’s pretty much the end of the line.

Out Of All Those Steps, Which Is The Key To Winning My Case?

The hearing with the Administrative Law Judge is the single most important step. That hearing is your one real chance to bring whatever evidence you think is needed. That’s your one real chance to bring witnesses who can verify what you say.

After this hearing, you basically won’t have any opportunity to present evidence again. If you had something at home that would have helped, but you didn’t bring it to the hearing, there’s not much you can do about it. If there was someone else who could have testified, buy you didn’t get them there, there’s not much you can do about it.

If possible, get a lawyer to help you at the hearing. Contact Legal Aid to see if we can represent you. The hearing is THE most important step. Get a lawyer if you can.

Prepare carefully for the ALJ hearing. Be ready to give a clear explanation of why you feel you should get benefits. Be ready to provide details and facts, not just general statements. Bring documents to show what you’re saying is true. Bring witnesses who can verify what you’re saying is true.

When Does The Agency Start Paying Unemployment Benefits?

The unemployment system does what the “most recent decision” says.

If the last decision said that payment of benefits to you is proper, you will start getting benefits.

If the last decision said that payment of benefits to you is NOT proper, you will stop getting benefits.

The “most recent decision” will be followed, even if one side files an appeal.

If you win and the other side appeals, benefits are paid to you until there is an appeal decision against you.

If you lose and file an appeal, you will not get benefits until there is an appeal decision in your favor.

What Happens If I Was Getting Benefits, But the Employer Wins An Appeal?

First of all, payment of further benefits will stop. You can file an appeal. If you win your appeal, you can start getting benefits again. But you won’t be paid benefits until there is an appeal decision in your favor.

Second, any benefits that you have already been paid will be called an error. The agency will say that you have been “overpaid” with benefits you should not have received. The agency may send you a letter asking you to repay the money.

At the end of the case, when all the appeals are over, you can decide what to do about any Overpayment claim.

If you committed Fraud or deliberately lied in your application, the agency may sue you in court to collect the claim. The agency may also refer your case to the prosecutor for criminal Fraud charges.

Otherwise, the unemployment agency usually will not sue you for the money. The amount will be marked in your records. The next time you qualify for unemployment benefits, the agency will take your payments until the Overpayment is collected. After that point, you can start drawing benefits again.

What Happens If I Was NOT Getting Benefits, But the Appeal Went In My Favor? Can I Get Back Benefits?

Yes, if you kept filing your claim forms during the appeal. You have to keep looking for work, even while the appeal is pending. You have to keep filing your claim forms at Unemployment, even while the appeal is pending. If you win on appeal, you CAN be paid for weeks when you filed you claim and you should have gotten benefits.

Do I Have To Take The Back Benefits, Or Can I Choose To “Save” Them For Future Weeks?

You can choose to defer back benefits if you think you are going to remain unemployed for a long time.

Under current law, 26 weeks is the maximum time that benefits can be paid. If you take some weeks of back benefits, you’ll have fewer weeks of benefits in the future. If you choose not to take the back benefits, you will have more weeks of payments for the future.

If you do not want to get back benefits, tell the unemployment office immediately. As soon as you get a favorable decision, the agency will start processing back benefits. If you want to hold them in reserve, go to the local office quickly and tell them not to pay back benefits.

View the Unemployment Compensation Toolkit for more information on Unemployment Compensation. 

This is general legal information. For guidance about your situation, talk to a lawyer.