Witnesses – How They Make or Break an Unemployment Compensation Hearing
So – you just got that unemployment hearing notice. Are you going to participate?
If the answer is YES, the most important decision you will make is – Who is going to participate in the hearing? If you are going to go to all the effort of contesting a claim, you need to make sure you are putting together a winning case.
Important points that impact the hearing:
- HR Department Testimony alone, will not win the case – they can participate as “keeper of the records.” However, they do not have the First-Hand Testimony that is required. That is, someone with direct, personal knowledge of the events leading to the separation, and who also has eyes-on direct knowledge of the final incident that caused the separation. This may be more than one person in your organization.
- All hearings are “de novo”– Latin for “from the new.” The hearing is decided with evidence and testimony only presented at the hearing, without reference to any previous local office determinations, paperwork or previously submitted evidence. This is the ONLY opportunity you have to present first-hand testimony – if it is not presented at the hearing by the proper witnesses, it will not be part of the record or used in the hearing decision.
- Signed witness statements, even notarized statements are considered “hearsay” and not admissible in the hearing. The claimant has the right to cross-examine any people offering evidence, and you cannot cross-examine a piece of paper. In the handful of States that do allow hearsay evidence, the first-hand testimony of the claimant regarding their separation will always carry more weight than hearsay.
The take-away from this is: your organization needs make the commitment to have the right people participate in the hearing to make your case. This situation has been simplified for Employers in the COVID-era since most all hearings are done by telephone. Instead of driving to a hearing with HR and two witnesses and losing one-half of a day of work, the hearing participants can be in your conference room or the HR office with a minimal time commitment for all involved.
About the Author
Judy Snyder is the Director for the Mid-Atlantic Division at Compensation Resources (Experian), MEA’s unemployment compensation partner. Judy can be reached at Judith.firstname.lastname@example.org.