Denied Unemployment? Here's What to Do

By Brett Snider, Esq. on May 07, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Nothing stings worse than being denied unemployment benefits. Well, maybe losing that high-paying job in the first place ranks higher, but this is not an economic climate for moping.

If you are turned down for unemployment benefits, here are three potential courses of action:

1. Appeal the Decision.

When you applied for unemployment in the first place, your state unemployment agency made a determination of your eligibility.

Common reasons for denial include:

  • Voluntarily quitting your job,
  • Being fired from your last job for misconduct, or
  • Not earning enough money while you were employed.

You may disagree with the agency's decision and reasoning with respect to your termination or salary, and that is why you must request a hearing.

2. Request and Attend a Hearing.

After receiving your unemployment denial letter, you may request a hearing with your state's Department of Labor, typically within 30 days of the letter's mailing date. (Check the agency's website in your state for the specific deadline.)

Preparing for the hearing means taking the following steps:

  • Gathering paperwork. You need to collect and organize all of your pay stubs, job evaluations, employee guidelines and warning letters.
  • Line up witnesses. You may need someone to testify on your behalf from any of your past jobs.
  • Think about your arguments. Condense your frustrations and complaints into a handful of strong, salient points to present at the hearing.
  • Consult an attorney. Speaking at least once with an experienced unemployment attorney can give you a good idea about your arguments and whether you need representation.

On the day of your hearing, arrive early, be well-dressed, be polite, and refer to the judge as "Your Honor."

3. I Lost My Appeal. What Now?

While you can always appeal your appeal, unemployment insurance shouldn't be your sole focus.

Here are some tips for minimizing your costs until you find your next full-time job:

  • Medical insurance through COBRA. In general, you should get COBRA benefits, unless a "qualifying event" occurs that makes you ineligible.
  • Find a part-time job. It might not be the salary you wanted, but some income is better than none at all.
  • Live within your budget. When you're unemployed, you don't need any new debt weighing you down.
  • Update your resume and stay positive. Potential employers are going to want to see you at your best, so avoid sliding into a pit of self-loathing.

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