If your claim for unemployment benefits has been denied in Colorado, you may think that you’re out of luck. But that’s not necessarily true. In Colorado, as in all other states, you have the right to appeal a denial of unemployment benefits. If you file an appeal and win, you will receive all benefits to which you are entitled. This includes retroactive benefits: benefits from the time that your application for unemployment should have been accepted.
This article explains common reasons why unemployment claims are denied, how to appeal a denial of unemployment benefits, and how to persuasively argue your case. For more information on unemployment benefits in general, see our Collecting Unemployment Benefits page.
In Colorado, you will receive a Notice of Decision if your unemployment claim has been denied. This document will list the specific reasons why your claim was denied and give you information on the appeals process.
Common reasons why unemployment claims are denied include:
It’s not always worthwhile to appeal a denial of unemployment benefits. For example, if you clearly don’t meet the earnings requirements, there’s no point in wasting your time on an appeal. If, however, it is a close case as to whether engaged in misconduct, filing an appeal might be a good idea.
You must file your appeal within 20 days of the mailing date on the Notice of Decision. You can mail or fax your written appeal to the Unemployment Appeals Section of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE). For information on where to send or fax your appeal, see the Appeals page at the website of the CDLE.
When you file your appeal, make sure to briefly explain why you believe you should receive benefits. For example, if the Notice states that you were denied benefits because you were fired from your last job for misconduct, you might state, “I was laid off along with the rest of my department when the company outsourced our jobs.” Or, if the Determination states that you did not earn enough during the base period, you might say, “The Determination misstated my earnings from the last quarter of 2014, which should have been $4,000 rather than $400.”
Throughout the appeal process, you should file weekly claims for unemployment benefits, look for work, and keep records of your job search, just as you would if your application for benefits had been granted. This may seem like a waste of time, but it’s not. If you win your appeal, you will be entitled to benefits retroactively from the time your application should have been accepted – but only if you’ve been following the usual rules to receive benefits.
Once you file your appeal, the Appeals Section will send you a hearing notice, providing the time and location of the hearing and whether it will be in person or by phone.
At the hearing, the Hearing Officer will ask questions, review documents, and make a decision on your appeal. Your employer will also likely attend the hearing and may be represented by an attorney. You may hire an attorney to represent you, too.
You should be prepared to present all of the evidence showing that you should have received unemployment benefits. If there is a dispute over why you were fired, for example, you should submit any documents you have showing that you were not fired for misconduct, such as a separation notice indicating you are being laid off for lack of work. You may also want to present witnesses who can support your side of the story, such as a coworker who was laid off at the same time and was given the same information as you. The hearing notice will explain how to present copies of your documents to the Hearing Officer before the hearing.
During the hearing, make sure you are ready on time, with your documents and any witnesses you want to present. Make sure to answer all of the Hearing Officer’s questions thoughtfully and carefully. You have the right to question your employer’s witnesses, and your employer has the right to question you and your witnesses. Once all of the evidence has been heard, you’ll have a chance to make a closing argument. Make sure to state all of the reasons why you believe you are entitled to benefits.
After the hearing, the Appeals Section will issue a written decision, stating whether you should receive benefits. You will get the decision in the mail. If you win your appeal, you don’t have to do anything further.
If you lose your appeal, you can file an appeal with the Industrial Claims Appeals Office of the CDLE within 20 days. The CDLE provides a form that you can use for this purpose. Once you file your appeal, you will receive instructions from the Appeals Office on how to obtain a copy of the transcript from your initial hearing.
Typically, the Appeals Panel doesn’t hold another hearing or take any additional evidence. However, you will have an opportunity to submit a written statement, explaining the reasons why you are entitled to benefits.
If the second appeal doesn’t go your way, you may appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals within 21 days.
If you are considering an appeal, review the helpful information on the the appeals page of the CDLE, including its pamphlet, The Appeals Process. It includes deadlines, information on preparing for the hearing, links to forms, and more.
You may also want to consider hiring an attorney to help you with your appeal. Your employer may have an attorney at the hearing. If so, having a lawyer on your side will help even the odds. An attorney can question witnesses, help you decide what evidence would be most helpful, and present legal arguments about why you should have been awarded unemployment benefits.
However, you’ll have to consider whether the cost of hiring an attorney is worth what you might win in benefits. An attorney should be willing to meet with you for a quick consultation to review your case, explain your chances of winning the appeal, and talk about fees. If you have a strong case and the fees are reasonable, it might make sense to hire a lawyer to represent you. For a listing of employment lawyers in your area, see Nolo's lawyer directory.