If your claim for unemployment benefits has been denied in Georgia, you may think that you’re out of luck. But that’s not necessarily true. In Georgia, 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 some common reasons why unemployment claims are denied, how to appeal a denial of unemployment benefits, and how to argue your case. For more information on unemployment benefits in general, see our Collecting Unemployment Benefits page.
You will receive a claim determination letter from the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) if your unemployment claim has been denied. This letter 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:
In Georgia (as in most states), you must have earned a minimum amount in wages from employers who are covered by the state’s unemployment laws (most are), during a 12-month stretch called the “base period,” in order to qualify for benefits.
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 will not receive benefits. Although many states recognize compelling personal reasons to quit, Georgia does not. In Georgia, you will be eligible only if you quit your job due to a material change to your working conditions or your employment agreement, or because your employer failed to pay you.
In Georgia, you are not eligible for benefits if you were fired for misconduct. In Georgia, misconduct includes coming to work intoxicated, continuing absences from work after a written warning, and other intentional violations of workplace policies. You will generally not be found guilty of misconduct if you were simply a poor fit or lacked the skills to do your job well.
To receive benefits, you must look for new work and accept a suitable job if you are offered one. (See Collecting Unemployment Benefits in Georgia 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.
You must file your appeal within 15 days of the mailing date on the determination letter. You can email, mail, fax, or hand-deliver your written appeal to the Appeals Tribunal of the GDOL. The determination letter will give you further instructions on how to file your appeal, including the proper mailing address and fax number.
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 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.”
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 when your application should have been accepted – but only if you’ve been following the usual rules to receive benefits.
The Appeals Tribunal will send you a hearing notice, explaining when and where the hearing will take place. Most hearings are held over the phone, but the Tribunal may decide to hold an in-person hearing in certain circumstances.
At the hearing, the administrative hearing officer will ask questions, review documents, and make a decision on your appeal. Your employer will likely also 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.
During the hearing, make sure you are available 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 (or its representative) 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. Make sure you state all of the reasons why you believe you are entitled to benefits.
After the hearing, the hearing officer will issue a written decision, stating whether you should receive benefits. You’ll 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 Board of Review within 15 days of the release date of the hearing officer’s decision. (The decision will explain how to file this appeal.)
The Board of Review will not hold another hearing or take new evidence, but will decide the case based on the facts that were presented at the hearing. If the Board of Review doesn’t decide in your favor, you may appeal to the Georgia Superior Court.
If you are considering an appeal, review the helpful information in the GDOL’s Unemployment Insurance Appeals Handbook. It includes deadlines, information on what to include in your appeal, 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.