How to Appeal an Unemployment Denial Decision

If you qualify for unemployment benefits, the process for claiming benefits should be as easy as filing your application and waiting for the checks. But occasionally state unemployment offices will deny the claims of people who are legally eligible for benefits.

Eligibility criteria differ from state to state, but generally speaking, you should be eligible for benefits if you worked in the state for at least the required period (usually eighteen months), and lost your job through no fault of your own.

If your claim is denied, don’t panic. You have the right to appeal that decision and hopefully collect your benefits. While states differ in their eligibility criteria and appeal processes, there are a few things that you should do in every state to pursue an appeal.


Unemployment benefits applications require a great deal of specific information in order to be correctly processed. The computers that initially analyze applications will flag applications that contain inaccurate or unverifiable information, which can easily lead to a denial of your benefits. So filing a new claim should be the first thing to do after being denied. Double check that all of your information is accurate, and take your time filling out the application to be sure that the unemployment office gets all of the correct information. Your denial could have been as simple as a couple of transposed numbers.

Understand the reason for the denial

States are required to inform you in writing of the reason for denying your claim. When you receive the letter, read it carefully to ensure that you understand the states reasoning, then go back and read the relevant part of the eligibility rules on the unemployment website. If you don’t understand the reasoning, call the unemployment office and ask to speak to an unemployment specialist and have them explain it to you.

Request an appeal

You basically have three ways to appeal a denial in most states: in writing, on the phone, and in person. If you appeal in writing, you will be sending in a formal letter explaining why you believe you are entitled to benefits, along with evidence to support your explanation. In-person and phone appeals allow you to speak directly to an unemployment official about your previous employment. In any case, you will be asked detailed questions about your previous employers for the last 18 months, your personal information, and your explanation of the terms of your dismissal. The unemployment office will contact your former employers to verify your story, so it is important to be honest.

You should act fast no matter which way you choose to appeal the decision.  Your appeal window varies by state, but the average time to respond is 14 days.

You will be notified within a few weeks whether your appeal succeeded, and when you can begin to collect benefits.

If your appeal was denied, you have the right to ask for a second appeal, which takes place in a hearing.

How to file a second unemployment appeal

If your initial application for unemployment benefits was denied, and your first appeal to reverse the decision was also denied, you have the right to file a second appeal. The second appeal typically takes place in a hearing, where you are allowed to plead your case in front of one or more unemployment officials, call witnesses, and have a lawyer present to help you make your case.

While the advice for your second appeal is similar to the advice for your first, there are some specific things you need to do to prepare for your hearing.

Gather your evidence

Contact your former employer and request as much information as possible. Information that may be helpful can include time sheets, pay stubs, emails, and employee evaluations. This information can help you demonstrate the length of time you were with the company, what they paid you, and what your supervisors thought of you.

If you were ever written up or otherwise disciplined, you should request copies of that documentation as well. Even if it makes you look bad, the more you know about it, the better you will be able to defend yourself.

Recruit a witness

Secondary appeal hearings allow you to call a witness to testify about the circumstances surrounding your termination and the quality of your work. Calling a credible witness can help your case significantly. Try to recruit someone who was your supervisor, or at least a superior who was familiar with your work. Remind your witness to be honest and stick to the facts instead of gushing about how great you are.

Get help

Secondary appeal hearings allow you to have a lawyer present to help you prepare and present your case. Lawyers who specialize in benefit appeals can be very expensive, and the whole reason you need one in this case is your lack of income, so you should consider this option carefully. Ask attorneys what they charge for an initial consultation, and how they expect to be paid. Ask in particular whether they expect to be paid if you lose your appeal.

Prepare your case

It may seem obvious, but you would be surprised what a difference it makes to be prepared, on time, and well dressed.

Have your documents and evidence in hand and organized when you enter the hearing. Make sure you and your witness both arrive before the hearing is scheduled to begin, and dress professionally. Treating the appeal proceedings with respect can be a big help in persuading the appeals board.

Stick to the facts

Every person who loses his or her job has a sad story to tell about how they will lose their homes, their cars, and their cats if they don’t get benefits. But people trying to scam the state have the same stories. The job of the appeals board’s job is not to determine who has the saddest story, but who is legally eligible for unemployment benefits. A well-prepared case with facts of your employment history and why you were terminated will be much more convincing than an emotional plea.

[Go Back]    [^ Back to Top]