1. Fill out the Notice of Appeal form
To appeal, you may either use a Notice of Appeal form, or write a letter.
Use the Notice of Appeal form. This is a 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 information to:
Illinois Department of Employment Security
Attn: Board of Review
33 South State Street, 9th Floor
Chicago, IL 60603
You can also drop it off at your local unemployment office.
It is strongly suggested that you send the letter in a manner where you can track it and verify it was delivered. Make sure you don't wait until the last week to send your appeal. Keep a copy for your own records.
2. 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. You may not receive this letter for a few weeks, but make sure you do not miss receiving the letter. You only have one opportunity to a hearing, unless you contact IDES and they agree to reschedule your hearing. You need to have a very good reason to request a change in the date. The more time you allow your request to be considered, the more likely your request for the hearing to be scheduled will be granted.
Your hearing will be by telephone unless you have a reason to ask for 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 2 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.
It is very important to do everything you can to prepare for your hearing and it is strongly encouraged you consult with an attorney who concentrates on unemployment appeals. It is very difficult to obtain benefits if you are denied at the initial appeal by the Referee's decision.
3. Get a copy of your unemployment file
Look at these documents very carefully, especially focusing on your employer's statement and any evidence they have submitted to see how you can dispute their facts and position. You need to clearly lay out the facts that prove your argument.
4. Prepare for the unemployment benefits appeal hearing
If you were fired or laid off, think about how you could show that it was not because of "misconduct." Learn more from Getting unemployment benefits if I was fired.
You are allowed to submit documents to the Referee to help prove your claim. The following documents may be helpful:
- Your medical records
- A letter from your doctor or mental health care professional
- Phone records, in cases where the employer claims you were absent without calling in
- Any other document that you think would support your version of events
If 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.
Write down what you want to tell the Referee about your misconduct or good cause and bring these notes to your hearing.
5. Consider using a witness to support your appeal
The best witnesses are co-workers who can testify about your employment, especially to support that you are not guilty of misconduct, or did not quit for a reason that is not valid in order to receive benefits.
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. You must notify the Referee before the hearing that you are bringing and want to take testimony from witnesses.
You should go through what questions you are going to ask your witness and be prepared for your former employer to also ask any of your witnesses questions. Make sure your witnesses can come to the hearing and let them know that you only have one hearing.
You should also tell any of your witnesses to be very respectful of the Referee by not interrupting and stopping if the Referee starts to speak. You should address the Referee as "your Honor" or "Judge," unless the Referee tells you he or she wants to be addressed in a different way. This shows that you understand that they are the one who is going to be making the decision in your appeal.
If you cannot get someone to agree to attend the hearing and you are confident they will help your case, you can 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 be helpful to subpoena that person. You may want to tell the witness in advance that you will be sending a subpoena. You should keep in mind that the person who is being subpoenaed will give testimony and you will not likely know what they are going to say. They may not want to testify because they are afraid of being retaliated by the employer. You may want to ask the Referee to tell the witness that their employer is prevented from retaliating against them based on anything they say during this hearing.
6. Be on time for your unemployment benefits appeal hearing
If you will be late for the appeal hearing, contact the Referee immediately. You should try to avoid this, as you may not be able to reach the Referee before the hearing. Referees have hearings throughout the day and may not have time to check their messages before your hearing. If it is a telephone hearing, make sure that you are at your phone at the scheduled time for the hearing and that the Referee has your correct number. Sometimes the Referee will call a few minutes late, but make sure you do not miss the call. Make sure any witnesses are also on time for the hearing, or are available by phone.
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 a motion asking the Referee to change your hearing date. It is not always granted, so try to avoid asking for the hearing to be scheduled. You should do your best to stay on the good terms with the Referee. This means you show the Referee that you respect them and their time.
7. Make your arguments at the appeal hearing
The hearing will be conducted under oath, which means that you are required to promise to tell the truth. The hearing will also be recorded. Be sure to speak clearly.
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 a conference call, where your employer, and their attorney if they have one, will be on the call. Typically, someone from Human Resources will be on the call, even if you have not had any previous interaction with this person.
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.
The Referee will let each side speak. Usually you will go first. Know what you want to say before the hearing and practice. The Referee will probably ask you questions, but some will not. You need to be ready to make a strong argument as to why you are entitled to unemployment benefits. Usually, the appeal is based on an initial finding of misconduct. If this is the case, you need to argue that you did not commit any misconduct. Both sides have the right to question each other and the Referee will usually ask questions as well. It is very important that you do not interrupt the Referee. If the Referee says something you should immediately stop talking and listen to what the Referee is saying. After the Referee is finished talking, you can then speak again.
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, but do not interrupt the Referee or keep talking about a point that the Referee says you should move on from. Tell the story in the order that it happened. If you are not able to get all of the information you feel was important to say, and are denied benefits by the Referee, you can raise this issue in any further appeals. The Referee may ask you some questions, and the employer's representative may also ask questions.
The employer's witnesses will testify and the employer may submit documents. The employer must provide you copies of any documents before the hearing. If you have not received anything and they ask the Referee to consider them, you should object, stating that the employer was required to send you a copy of the documents they planned on using. The Referee may overrule your objection, even though this is required. You can use this in any further appeals. Make sure you know exactly what documents they are referring to during the hearing. You can ask what page or paragraph they are looking at. Do not be hesitant to ask this. You can question the witnesses, including your employer.
8. Wait for the outcome of the appeal
You will probably get your decision in the mail within a week after your hearing. If you don't agree with the decision, you can file 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.
Updated: January 2017