At this point in your appeal for unemployment compensation benefits (“UC Benefits”), you have filed an appeal to your Notice of Determination and have received your Notice of Hearing in the mail. The Notice of Hearing will state where and when you must appear in order to preset your case to a Referee.
What is the purpose of a Referee Hearing?
The purpose of a Referee hearing is to explain why your appeal should be granted and why you should be found eligible for UC Benefits.
How do you prepare for a Referee Hearing?
Step One: Request a copy of the Referee File
What is a Referee File? A Referee File contains all documents that either you or your employer has submitted in connection with your attempt to collect UC Benefits. In preparation for your upcoming hearing, you should request a copy of your Referee File from the Referee Office. You can request a copy by calling the Referee Office (phone number is on the Notice of Hearing) and asking that they mail you a copy. You can also go in person to the Referee Office (address is on the Notice of Hearing) and request a copy of the Referee File.
Once you obtain your Referee File, you should look at all the documents so you can understand what your Employer might argue in order to get the Referee to deny your UC Benefits. Once you are done reviewing the Referee File, you should begin to prepare your case.
Step Two: Preparing your case
When you get your Notice of Hearing, it will state what sections of the Pennsylvania Unemployment Law (“Law”) will be considered at your hearing.
For example, if you were found ineligible under 402(b) of the Law, then you have the burden of proving why you quit. You must prove you had “necessitous and compelling reasons” for quitting, such as: health problems, unsafe working conditions, etc.
You have the burden under 402(b) of the Law so you will want to prepare a narrative/statement as to why you quit. Your narrative/statement should be very detailed. Preparing a narrative/statement in advance will help you to focus on the issues as to why you quit. Therefore, when you go before the Referee, you will have an outline of what you want to testify to. Based on what is in the Referee File, you may also choose to bring a witness with you that can testify to the reasons why you quit. A witness can be extremely helpful if he/she has first hand knowledge as to why you quit.
If you were found ineligible under 402(e) of the Law, the Employer has the burden of proving you were terminated for “willful misconduct.” In other words, the Employer has to prove you deliberately or intentionally violated a policy or procedure or engaged in conduct that went against the Employer’s interests.
While your Employer has the burden under 402(e) of the Law, you should still prepare a defense for your Referee hearing. You should look at the Referee File to determine what the Employer will likely be arguing. Therefore, you can prepare a narrative/statement to address the reasons why you were terminated. You may also choose to bring a witness that can testify that you did not engage in any misconduct to justify your termination.
The Referee File will assist you in preparing for your case. It gives insight into what an Employer may argue at the hearing so you can prepare accordingly. The Referee File may also give you advanced notice if your Employer has retained counsel, therefore giving you the chance to do the same.
Step Three: Arrive at the designated hearing location on time
On the day of your hearing, you must show up to the location on the Notice of Hearing at least 15 minutes prior to your hearing time. I would recommend showing up at least 30 minutes prior to your scheduled hearing time. The dress code for a Referee Hearing is typically business casual so dress accordingly.