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  • Writer's pictureDavid Manes

Should you go to the hearing without a lawyer?

If you attend an appeal hearing without an unemployment lawyer, you will be at a significant disadvantage. Why? Consider whether you can:

  1. Cite to the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence to object to a document, testimony, or witness.

  2. Introduce your evidence (even your own testimony!) in a way that avoids objections.

  3. Respond with the correct legal arguments when the employer raises an evidentiary objection.

  4. Cross-examine witnesses who testify for the employer.

  5. Make a coherent 10-15 minute speech when your are told to “make your case.”

  6. Identify and utilize witnesses to bolster your case.

  7. Handle the Referee interrupting you with loaded questions.

  8. Request subpoenas in advance of the hearing.

Finally, a short test. As you read this, recite the elements of your claim or defense that you must prove to win your case.

If are comfortable with all of the above items, you are probably an employment attorney yourself. If not, you should contact an unemployment lawyer to fight your appeal.

But remember, this is just a short test and a short lest. Everything discussed here has been litigated over many years and there is a body of case law interpreting each concept.

Improper introduction or objection to evidence is the number 1 reason claimants will lose.

It is important to understand that the evidence presented at your hearing is the single most important factor that allows the Referee to determine whether you are eligible for benefits. This will likely be the only opportunity you have to introduce evidence. Not hiring a skilled unemployment lawyer could result in improper and prejudicial evidence becoming part of your unemployment “record” and result in the Referee denying your benefits.

At your appeal hearing, the employer will testify to the events leading to your unemployment and will often have a lawyer present with them to walk them through their testimony.  An unemployment lawyer knows what your employer can and cannot testify about.  If you allow your employer to testify to something that otherwise wouldn’t be allowed, you risk losing your appeal.  This will likely happen if you appear without representation.

You will be responsible for walking the Referee through the events that led to your unemployment.  As you will undoubtedly be passionate about your testimony, there is a risk you make get overly heated and testify to something reckless that could jeopardize your case.  Your employer will undoubtedly have a lawyer to aid them in testifying and so should you.

It is important to understand that the Referee must determine which party’s testimony to believe. The employer will undoubtedly have a lawyer with them at your unemployment appeal hearing.  The lawyer will try to discredit your testimony by asking you difficult and complex questions about the events leading to your unemployment. The lawyer’s objective is to get you to admit that you were at fault, as opposed to your employer.  There is a risk that you may become overly heated or upset and admit to something you never did. An unemployment lawyer will ensure that you do not become overly heated or admit to something that could affect your unemployment eligibility.  In addition, having an unemployment lawyer on your side to ask your employer difficult questions and discredit their testimony will help ensure that you make the best case to the Referee.

A Referee will also consider documentation and records kept by either party. Your unemployment lawyer knows what documents your employer can and cannot introduce at an unemployment appeal hearing and can ensure that only proper documentation and records are allowed.  One single document can determine the outcome of your entire appeal and whether you will receive unemployment benefits. Not having an unemployment attorney on your side to prevent the prejudicial documents from being introduced could end up costing you your appeal.

Not having an unemployment lawyer at your unemployment compensation appeal hearing puts you at a significant disadvantage against your employer.  It is important to understand that the evidence presented at your appeal hearing becomes part of your unemployment “record” and cannot be removed.  One piece of evidence can affect your entire case.  How you respond to an employer’s question can affect your eligibility. One single document can result in the Referee denying your unemployment benefits.  These are all risks you face if you choose not to have an unemployment lawyer at your appeal hearing.

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