Appealing an Unemployment Benefits Decision

Appealing an Unemployment Benefits Decision

Last updated: May 2012

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If you applied for unemployment benefits, but were denied, you can appeal the decision within 30 days. To file your appeal, send a Notice of Appeal form or letter to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Once you have sent the Notice of Appeal form, a Referee will schedule a hearing. You must attend the hearing or your case will be dismissed.Click on words that appear like 'this' to learn what these words mean.May I appeal a denial of unemployment benefits? Yes. After the interview at your local office, you will get a letter from the Illinois Department of Employment Security that tells you if you have been approved or denied for unemployment benefits. If you are denied unemployment benefits, you can appeal the decision. Additionally, if your unemployment benefits are approved, your former employer can appeal the decision. If either you or your former employer chooses to appeal, you will have a hearing with a Referee.How long do I have to file an appeal? If you are denied unemployment benefits, you have 30 days from the date on the decision to appeal it. To file your appeal, send a Notice of Appeal form or letter to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. You can get the Notice of Appeal form and letter in the "Forms" section. What will happen after I send my Notice of Appeal? After you send in your Notice of Appeal, the Referee will schedule a hearing. You will receive a notice of the date and time of your hearing. Your hearing will be by telephone unless you have a good reason to ask for an in-person hearing. If you are scheduled for a telephone hearing, you can request an in-person hearing by calling the Referee before your hearing date.You must attend your hearing or your case will be dismissed. If you cannot attend the hearing on that date, you must call the phone number on the notice and ask the Referee for a continuance. A continuance is a request for the Referee to change your hearing date.How do I prepare for my hearing if I was fired? You will not receive unemployment benefits if the Referee finds that you were fired for “misconduct.”For the purpose of unemployment benefits in Illinois, “misconduct” means:You intentionally violated a rule of your employer;The rule was connected with your work; andYour intentional violation of the rule was (1) repeated after a warning, or (2) harmed the employer or another employee.Your employer has to prove each of the above to the Referee.The Referee may find that you were fired for misconduct if:You were warned about something you were doing that was against company policy, and you did not make efforts to stop what you were doing. For example, if the company manual said that you have to lock up a tool cabinet at the end of your shift, and you continued to leave it unlocked after repeated warnings by your supervisor, that would probably be misconduct;You did not do something that your boss asked you to do, which was reasonable and part of your job. For example, if you worked as a janitor and your boss asked you to mop the floor but you refused to do it, that would probably be misconduct.The Referee may find that you were not fired for misconduct if:You were fired because your employer thought your work wasn't good enough, but you tried your best to do it right. For example, if you made several mistakes while operating the cash register, but did not intend to make those mistakes, your mistakes would probably not be misconduct;You didn't know that what you were doing was wrong because no one told you or warned you about it. For example, if you were not warned by your supervisor that you should lock the tool cabinet, and you didn't know it was a rule, failure to lock it would probably not be misconduct;You refused to do a dangerous job after you told your employer about the danger. For example, if your employer wanted you to work on a machine without safety glasses and you refused to do it because you thought it was too dangerous, it would probably not be misconduct;You were fired for reasons that were not related to how you do your job. For example, if your employer fired you because of a traffic violation and driving was not part of your job, that would probably not be misconduct because it has nothing to do with your job;You were late or did not show up to work but had a good reason and notified your employer. Be prepared to prove that you had a good reason for being late or not showing up to work and that you notified your employer.Think about how you will show the Referee that you were not fired because of misconduct. Write down what you want to tell the Referee and bring these notes to your hearing.How do I prepare for my hearing if I quit my job? If you quit your job, it must be for reasons serious enough that the Referee finds "good cause." The good cause for leaving must be because of something your employer did or didn’t do. A referee will probably decide that you quit for good cause if you can show one of the following:The job posed a risk to your health, safety or morals (for example, sexual harassment);You were not able to perform your work;You left because of your own medical problem or the medical problem of a spouse, child, or parent; you gave your employer a doctor's note proving the illness or disability; and you told your employer you were going to miss work due to the medical problems;Your employer is violating laws regarding your wages. For example, you are not getting paid for overtime, or you are being paid below minimum wage ($8.25/hr);Your employer greatly reduced your pay, your hours and/or your benefits;You left your job because you had a serious job offer (including a starting date and rate of pay), and you stayed at your current job until just before the new job started;There are other strong reasons for your having left your job that would make the average worker quit. You must show that before you actually quit, you tried to solve the problems that you were having at your job. For example, if you sent in a formal complaint about working conditions, you should tell the Referee that. If you went to talk about your work problems with your supervisor and tried to work out a solution, you should also tell the Referee that. If you did not do this, you need to explain why.Think about how you would show that it was for good cause, write down what you want to tell the Referee, and bring these notes to your hearing.Can I look at my unemployment file? Yes. When you file an appeal, you have a right to a copy of everything in your unemployment file.Should I continue to file for unemployment benefits while I appeal? Yes. If you decide you are going to appeal the decision, you should continue to file your claims by mail or telephone. If you win at your hearing, you will only receive benefits for each of the weeks for which you filed.How do I find an attorney? The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) works with private law firms to provide limited free legal services. For more information visit the IDES: Legal Services Program.How do I appeal the Referee’s decision? If you don't agree with the Referee’s decision, you may file an appeal with the Board of Review. You will probably get the Referee’s decision in the mail within a week after your hearing. You must file a written appeal within 30 days of the mailing date listed on the Referee's decision. An appeal is really just a letter. In the letter, you should explain why you think the Referee's decision was wrong, based only on the evidence presented at the hearing. Be as organized and specific as possible. Include your name and address, your social security number, and the docket number on the decision.How do I appeal the Board of Review’s decision? If you don't agree with the Board of Review's decision, you may appeal that decision as well. You will have to file an Administrative Review Action in Circuit Court. You must file this case in Circuit Court within 35 days of the date of the Board of Review's decision. An Administrative Review Action is a court case that has strict legal requirements, and it is recommended that you get a lawyer for the case.File the notice of appeal To appeal, you may either use a Notice of Appeal form, or write a letter. For the "Notice of Appeal" form, you can use "Unemployment Benefits Appeal" in the "Forms/Letters" section of this guide. This tool that will ask you questions and create a Notice of Appeal form and a letter. After you answer all the questions, you may print and save the completed form and letter. You can also get a Notice of Appeal form from your local unemployment office.Send the form and the letter to:IDESBoard of Review33 South State Street, 9th FloorChicago, IL 60603You can also drop it off at your local unemployment office. Make sure you keep a copy for your own records.Wait for the date and time of your hearing After you send in your Notice of Appeal, the Referee will schedule a hearing. You will receive a notice of the date and time of your hearing. Your hearing will be done by telephone unless you have a good reason to request an in-person hearing. If you are scheduled for a telephone hearing, you can request an in-person hearing with a Referee if you call the Referee prior to your hearing date.It may be to your advantage to have an in-person hearing for several reasons, such as:You and your employer have two different versions about what happened and you feel you can tell your story better in person;There are certain papers or documents you want to show to the Referee; or,A condition (such as a hearing impairment) would make an in-person hearing easier.Get a copy of your unemployment file When you file an appeal, you have a right to a copy of everything in your unemployment file. If you will be having an in-person hearing, you should call the Referee and ask for a copy of your file. Look at these documents carefully. Look closely at your employer's statement and see if you think it is true. If it is not true, think of ways you can show it is wrong.Prepare for the hearing If you were fired or laid off, think about how you could show that it was not because of "misconduct."If you quit, think about how you could show that it was for "good cause."Write down what you want to tell the Referee about your good cause or misconduct and bring these notes to your hearing.See the "Common Questions" section in this Guide for more information on how to prove that you were not fired because of misconduct or that you quit for good cause.Decide if you will use witnesses or documents to support your case If you decide to call a witness, it is your responsibility to make sure the witness attends the hearing or is at the phone at the right time. A good witness could be a co-worker who saw or heard something your employer did or said. If you cannot get someone to agree to attend the hearing whom you are sure will help your case, you may ask the Referee to subpoena that person. A subpoena legally requires a person to come to the hearing. If a witness needs an excuse to be out of work during the hearing, or is fearful of being punished for volunteering to testify, it may also be helpful to subpoena that person. You may want to tell the witness in advance that you will be sending a subpoena.You are also allowed to submit documents to the Referee to help prove your claim. The following documents may be helpful: Your medical recordsA letter from your doctor or mental health care professionalPhone records, in cases where the employer claims you were absent without calling inAny other document that you think would support your version of eventsIf you have a telephone hearing, and want to submit additional documents, you must mail or fax copies to the Referee and your former employer before the hearing. The address and any fax numbers are listed on your hearing notice.Be on time for your hearing You must attend your hearing or your case will be dismissed. If you cannot come to the hearing on that date, you must call the phone number on the notice, and ask the Referee for a continuance. A continuance is just a motion asking the Referee to change your hearing date. Be sure to be on time for your hearing. If you will be late, contact the Referee immediately. If it is a telephone hearing, make sure that you are at your phone at the scheduled time for the hearing. Make sure any witnesses are also on time for the hearing, or are available by phone.Be prepared at the hearing. Bring several copies of all your documents with you. Bring a list of points you want to bring up at the hearing and paper and pen for taking notes. You may read from your list during the hearing if you feel comfortable doing that.If it is an in-person hearing, you will go into a room with the Referee, the employer's witnesses or representative, and your own documents and witnesses.If it is a telephone hearing, it will take place over conference call. The Referee will tape-record the hearing, whether it is in-person or by telephone. You will take an oath that you will tell the truth. When you testify, try to be clear and tell the story in the order it happened.The Referee’s job during the hearing is to get out all of the important information. Tell the Referee everything that you want them to know. The Referee may ask you some questions, and the employer's representative may also ask questions. The employer's witnesses may testify, too, and the employer may bring documents. You may question the witnesses, including your employer.If you lose, appeal the decision You will probably get your decision in the mail within a week after your hearing. If you don't agree with the decision, you may appeal by filing an appeal to the Board of Review. You must file the appeal in writing within 30 days of the mailing date listed on the referee's decision. If you are denied again at the Board of Review, you can appeal to the Circuit Court, but the process is more complicated. You should consider talking to an attorney if you reach that stage.

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