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UNEMPLOYMENT
BENEFITS

Employment law, including unemployment benefits, has been the core practice area of this firm for nearly a decade. During that time, we've represented hundreds of clients, winning millions of dollars. 

 

You are encouraged to research the information below as you research our firm as well. You can also review our experienced team of professionals and contact us if we can assist you. 

Appealing a UC Service Center Determination

After you apply for unemployment benefits, the initial decision is made by the UC Service Center. They quickly scan the information you submit and the information your employer submits​ to make a snap decision, and it can often be a denial. The document they send is called a Notice of Determination. 

 

Separately, there is a Monetary Determination made by the Unemployment Service Center. 

 

When the UC Service Center denies your claim for unemployment benefits, the next step is to file an appeal to be heard at a Referee Hearing. The Referee Hearing is like a mini-trial, with evidence, objections, cross-examination, and closing legal arguments. 

An experienced unemployment lawyer will know how to help you win your unemployment appeal. Most people only have to go through the convoluted UC system a few times in their careers, but unemployment attorneys do this kind of work all the time. Although you can choose to represent yourself, you should consult with legal counsel because there may be thousands of dollars in benefits hanging in the balance that you could lose. 

Appealing a Referee Decision/Order

After the Referee Hearing, a Referee Decision/Order is issued, which will affirm or reverse the determination of the UC Service Center. The next step for appeal after the Referee Hearing is to file an appeal with the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (UCBR). The UCBR considers submitted materials and the record from the hearing to determine if the Referee made a mistake and whether the Decision/Order should be reversed. 

Overpayments

Especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Pennsylvanians are now receiving Notices of Determination that say they have been overpaid benefits in the past and have to repay them to the state. These notices may be titled one of these ways:

  • Notice of Determination Non-Fraud FPUC Overpayment

  • Notice of Determination Non-Fault UC Overpayment

  • Notice of Determination Non-Fraud PUA Overpayment

  • Notice of Determination Fraud FPUC Overpayment

  • Notice of Determination Fault UC Overpayment

  • Notice of Determination Fraud PUA Overpayment

(The different acronyms are because benefits have been paid under a variety of different programs including Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the Pennsylvania UC Law)

The process for appealing an overpayment determination also involves an appeal to request a Referee Hearing. It is vitally important to follow the strict time requirements for filing the appeal and to prepare as much as possible for the hearing. In many cases, the total amount of the overpayment is thousands of dollars, and clearing that from your record is crucial. 

Everyone facing an unemployment benefits overpayment determination is advised to consult with a lawyer who can explain the legal issues, the strategy, and the steps needed to win the case. Even with a non-fault overpayment, Section 804(b)(1) of the Pennsylvania UC Law allows the state to seize future benefits from you when you need them most. 

Sometimes the paperwork from the UC Service Center doesn't tell you why you have been  deemed ineligible for benefits and therefore accused of receiving an overpayment. It may take some investigation into the hard records to discover what the underlying legal issue is. 

Willful Misconduct

Section 402(e) of the Pennsylvania UC Law makes a claimant ineligible for benefits if they are discharged for "willful misconduct." That means if you are fired for willful misconduct, you cannot collect benefits. 

However, the definition of willful misconduct has been subject to interpretation and argument in Pennsylvania courts for decades. Common issues include:

  • Attendance, absenteeism, tardiness, or lateness

  • Violating the employer's rules

  • Poor attitude

  • Fighting

  • Insubordination

  • Theft

  • Dishonesty

  • Damage to employer property

  • Unsatisfactory work performance

  • Drug and alcohol testing

These issues and many more are litigated in unemployment appeals, and they will determine whether you get to keep your benefits or lose them. The attorneys at Manes & Narahari LLC have experience fighting numerous cases involving willful misconduct issues, and we are proud of our excellent record of winning these cases. 

Voluntary Quit

Section 402(b) of the Pennsylvania UC Law makes a claimant ineligible for benefits if they voluntarily leave work without cause of a necessitous and compelling nature. That means if you quit your job without a really good reason, you cannot collect benefits. 

However, what constitutes a "necessitous and compelling" reason for voluntarily quitting your job is what the argument boils down to. Arguments over voluntary quit cases usually involve one of these main issues:

  • Health concerns, including COVID-19 issues

  • Transportation

  • Spouse relocation

  • Personal issues

  • Family obligations

  • Childcare

  • Unsuitable work

In most cases, the claimant will have to show not only the underlying reason (a necessitous and compelling reason), but also that they gave reasonable notice to the employer and tried to see if there was some accommodation that could be made. 

IMPORTANT: When the initial determination is a denial because of a voluntary quit under Section 402(b), the legal burden is on the claimant to prove their case. Even if the employer doesn't show up to the Referee Hearing after an appeal, that won't be enough. The claimant still has to establish the required legal elements of their case. For that reason, it is especially important to seek the advice of a good unemployment lawyer when facing this kind of unemployment case. 

Other Unemployment Issues

A number of other legal issues can arise in the context of unemployment compensation appeals. 

Section 402(a) - If a claimant refuses suitable work without good cause, they can be deemed ineligible for benefits

Section 402(h) - A claimant who is self-employed or starting up their own business may be deemed ineligible for unemployment benefits

Section 402(d)(1) - A severance payment that is too high may prevent a claimant from collecting benefits or may serve as a partial offset

Common Unemployment Questions

You may have questions about the process of appealing a denial of unemployment compensation benefits. The questions below are some of the most common, but you can also feel free to contact us at any time. 

Do I need a lawyer? You are not required to have a lawyer represent you in an unemployment appeal. But it is highly recommended that you consider having professional representation. You don't want to be railroaded through a process and lose benefits that you could have kept if only the right strategy was used. 

How do I win an unemployment appeal? Every case is different with respect to the facts and circumstances, but all cases have these in common. To win, you first need to know and follow the correct procedure. Dates, deadlines, and other requirements must be complied with. Next, you need to know the legal issues under consideration. Is your case about willful misconduct, voluntary quit, self-employment, or some other issue? Sometimes the case involves a combination of complex intertwined legal issues. Finally, you need to craft a strategy to present a strong case for benefit eligibility. That involves your testimony, documents, other witnesses, cross-examination of hostile witnesses, and citation to legal authority. 

Can you guarantee results? No law firm can ever promise or guarantee results when it involves an adversarial proceeding. The decision ultimately comes down to humans who might make the wrong decision or might disagree with your case. All we can promise is that we will do our best to maximize your chances of winning. 

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Our legal team provides world-class legal representation to those who need it. We represent employees, entrepreneurs, businesses, and individuals. Based out of Pittsburgh, we work with clients across Pennsylvania.  See what our clients say about us:

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