How to Appeal an Unemployment Denial in Florida

If your claim for unemployment has been denied, you have the right to file an appeal.

Has your application for unemployment benefits been denied in Florida? If so, you don't have to give up just yet. In every state, including Florida, you can appeal a denial of unemployment benefits. If you win your appeal, you will receive all benefits to which you are entitled. This includes retroactive benefits: benefits from the date that your claim should have been accepted.

This article explains some common reasons for unemployment denials, how to file an appeal, and what to expect at the appeal hearing. For more information on unemployment benefits in general, see our  Collecting Unemployment Benefits  page.

Why Unemployment Claims Are Denied

If your unemployment claim is denied, you will receive a notice of determination from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). The determination will explain why your claim was denied and provide information on the appeals process.

Common reasons why unemployment claims are denied include:

  • Failing to meet the earnings requirements.  To qualify for benefits in Florida (as in most states), you must have earned a minimum amount in wages during a 12-month stretch called the “base period.” Among other things, you must have earned at least $3,400 during the base period.
  • Quitting your last job.  To collect unemployment, you must be out of work through no fault of your own. So if you quit your job voluntarily, without good cause, you may not receive benefits. In Florida, good cause means a compelling job-related reason, such as unsafe working conditions your employer refused to correct. You may also have good cause if you quit for certain compelling personal reasons, including to relocate with your military spouse.
  • Getting fired for misconduct.  In Florida, you are not eligible for benefits if you were fired for misconduct. Misconduct usually means a deliberate disregard for your employer's interests, such as repeated violations of company rules. On the other hand, if you were fired for being inefficient or making good faith mistakes in judgment, you may still receive benefits.
  • Refusing  suitable work.  To receive benefits, you must look for new work and accept a suitable job if you are offered one. (See  Collecting Unemployment Benefits in Florida  for more information on these eligibility requirements.)

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's a close case as to whether you were fired for misconduct, filing an appeal might be a good idea.

How to File an Appeal

If your claim for benefits is denied, you have 20 days to file a request for an administrative hearing before an appeals referee. You can file your appeal online, by mail, or by fax with the Office of Appeals.

When you file your appeal, make sure to briefly explain why you believe you should receive benefits. For example, if the decision letter states that you were denied benefits because you were fired for misconduct, you might state, “Along with several coworkers, I was forced to quit my job when my employer refused to provide us with required safety equipment to work with toxic chemicals.”

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 date your application should have been accepted – but only if you’ve been following the usual rules to receive benefits.

The Hearing

After your request for hearing is received, the Office of Appeals will schedule a hearing before an appeals referee. You will receive a notice of hearing, explaining when the hearing will take place, whether it will be in person or by phone, and how to submit evidence and witness testimony.

At the hearing, the referee will ask questions, review documents, and make a decision on your appeal. Your employer will 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 showing that you were not fired for misconduct, such as a separation notice indicating you were 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.

During the hearing, be ready on time, with your documents and any witnesses you want to present. Make sure to answer all of the referee’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 the evidence has been heard, you’ll have a chance to make a closing argument.

The Decision

After the hearing, the referee will issue a written decision on your claim. If you win your appeal, you don’t have to do anything further.

If the referee decides against you, you have 20 days to file an appeal with the Reemployment Assistance Appeals Commission. You can file this appeal online, or by mail, fax, or hand delivery. Typically, the Commission will not hold another hearing and will decide the appeal on the evidence submitted to the referee.

If you disagree with the Board’s decision, you can appeal to the Florida District Court of Appeal in the county where you live or worked.

Next Steps

If you are considering an appeal, review the helpful information at the  Right to Appeal page  of the Florida DEO website. It includes information on deadlines, what to include in your appeal, the hearing process, 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.

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