“I have an Unemployment Benefits Appeal Hearing coming up. What do I do?”

Question: I was terminated about eight months ago, and I applied for unemployment benefits. After an initial Hearing I was granted benefits, and they started being paid about a month ago.

Now, my former employer has filed an Appeal from that decision, claiming that I was fired for “bad conduct,” that is, neglecting my duties at work.

I tried to request that the Unemployment Department issue a “subpoena” to make sure that a former colleague at work would attend the Appeal Hearing, because she knows I did not neglect my work. However, my request for a subpoena was turned down.

The Appeal Hearing is coming up. What should I do?

         Francis 
         Clarksville, Tennessee 

Answer: Francis, while I am not a member of the Bar of the State of Tennessee, my review of Tennessee’s Unemployment Appeals procedures on their website [www.Tennessee.gov/labor-wfd/] indicates to me that they are very similar to the Unemployment Appeals procedures of most states:

1. You have a right to testify on your own behalf, and your testimony will be under oath and recorded.
2. You can bring witnesses to testify for you, but the witnesses must have firsthand knowledge of the issues involved.
3. You have a right to ask the Appeals Tribunal to subpoena a witness, but they can either say “yes” or “no” depending on their view of whether the witness has material and relevant firsthand knowledge.
4. You can present documents into evidence. [If you do, bring the original and two copies of any you wish to place into evidence.] 5. You have a right to ask your employer questions, and their witnesses, too, if they present any.
6. You have a right to examine any documents your employer has presented into evidence.
7. You have a right to be represented by an attorney. If you cannot afford one, you might be able to get free or low-cost attorney services from your local Bar Association.

Unemployment Benefit Hearings and Appeals Hearings are rather informal, and designed to permit non-lawyers to represent themselves. I don’t think you should worry too much about the decision of the Appeals Tribunal not to issue a subpoena, for it was probably based on their view that another employee would not necessarily know if you did or did not neglect your work.

Bear in mind, too, that you have “won” the first round; that is, you were adjudged to be entitled to Unemployment Benefits. Your former employer now needs to overturn that decision, and that is not a very easy burden to carry.

If you are still concerned, as noted in Item 7 above, you might either retain an attorney to assist you, or if your finances are limited, seek free or low-cost assistance from your local bar association.

Hope this helps. Good luck to you.

          Best, Al Sklover

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© 2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.