How to Appeal an Unemployment Denial in Indiana

If you've been denied unemployment benefits, you can file an appeal.

If your claim for unemployment benefits has been denied in Indiana, you may think that you’re out of luck. But that’s not necessarily true. In Indiana, 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 that you should have been awarded up until the date you win your appeal.

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.

Why Unemployment Claims Are Denied

In Indiana, you will receive a letter called a Determination of Eligibility 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:

  • Failing to meet the earnings requirements. In Indiana, 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. Among other things, you must have earned at least $4,200 during the entire base period, and at least $2,500 in the last six months of the base period, to qualify.
  • 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 won’t be eligible for benefits. However, if you left your job for compelling work or personal reasons, you may still be eligible for benefits.
  • Getting fired for misconduct. In Indiana, you are not eligible for benefits if you were fired for good cause. If you were simply a poor fit or lacked the skills to do your job well, you will likely still be eligible for benefits. But if you were fired for deliberately breaking your employer’s rules, coming to work intoxicated, or intentionally damaging company property, for example, you won’t qualify.
  • 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 Indiana 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 is a close case as to whether you were fired for misconduct, filing an appeal might be a good idea.

How to File an Appeal

The Determination letter will explain how to file your appeal with the Appeals Tribunal. You have only ten days from the mailing date on the Determination to file, so you need to act quickly. You can file your appeal in writing, by fax, or in person (by delivering it by hand to a WorkOne Center). You must attach a copy of the Determination. For information on where to send, fax, or deliver your appeal, as well as what it must include, see Filing an Appeal on the website of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD).

When you file your appeal, make sure to briefly explain why you believe you should receive benefits. For example, if the Determination states that you were denied benefits because you voluntarily quit your last job, you might state, “I did not leave my last job voluntarily. I had to leave because of dangerous working conditions that my employer refused to correct.” Or, if the Determination states that you did not earn enough to qualify, you might say, “The Determination misstated my earnings from the first quarter of 2015, which should have been $6,000 rather than $600.”

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 for receiving benefits.

The Hearing

Once you file your appeal, you will get a Notice of Hearing by mail. The Notice will give you the date and time of your appeal hearing, which will likely be held by phone. You must complete and return the acknowledgment form you receive with the Notice, to indicate that you want to participate in the hearing and to provide the telephone number you will use for the hearing. If you don’t attend the hearing, your appeal will be dismissed.

An administrative law judge (ALJ) will conduct the hearing. The ALJ will ask questions, review documents, and make a decision on your appeal. Your employer will likely attend the hearing (by phone) as well 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 documents showing that you were not fired for misconduct, such as a separation notice indicating you were 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 get copies of your documents to the ALJ, if your hearing is to take place by phone.

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 ALJ’s questions thoughtfully and carefully. You have the right to question your employer’s witnesses, and your employer (or its lawyer) 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.

The Decision

After the hearing, the ALJ 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 Review Board of the Department of Workforce Development. You have 18 days from the mailing date of the ALJ’s decision to file this appeal. You can file by mail or by fax.

The ALJ’s decision will explain what information to include in this second appeal. Generally, the Review Board will not hold another hearing, but will instead review the evidence presented to the ALJ.

If you lose your appeal to the Review Board, you have the right to file a lawsuit in court.

Next Steps

If you are considering an appeal, review the helpful information at the Indiana DWD page on filing an appeal in Indiana. 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.

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