How to Appeal an Unemployment Denial in Kentucky

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

If your claim for unemployment benefits in Kentucky has been denied, don't lose hope. In Kentucky, as in other states, you have the right to file an appeal. If you win your appeal, you will receive all benefits to which you are entitled, including retroactive benefits from the date your application should have been accepted.

This article explains some common reasons why unemployment claims are denied, how to file an appeal, deadlines for filing, 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, the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training (OET) will send you a notice of determination. This notice will state the reasons why your claim was denied and explain how to appeal.

Here are some common reasons for a denial of unemployment benefits:

  • Failing to meet the earnings requirements. To qualify for benefits in Kentucky, you must have earned a minimum amount in wages during a 12-month stretch called the “base period."
  • Getting fired for misconduct. Under Kentucky law, you will be denied benefits if you were fired for misconduct. For example, you may be disqualified if you were fired for having multiple unexcused absences, falsifying application documents, coming to work intoxicated, or refusing to follow reasonable instructions. On the other hand, if you were simply a poor fit or lacked the skills to perform your job, you will probably still be eligible for benefits.
  • 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. You may have good cause if you quit because your employer refused to remedy unsafe working conditions, for example, or because you wanted to shorten a commute of more than 100 miles each way.
  • 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 Kentucky for more information on these eligibility requirements.)

It isn’t always a good idea to file an appeal if you’ve been denied unemployment benefits. For example, if you simply haven’t earned enough to qualify, 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 15 days to file your appeal with the Appeals Branch. You must file your appeal in writing, by mail. (See the OET's page, How Do I File an Appeal, for more details.)

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 voluntarily quit your last job, you might state, “I was forced to resign in order to move with my wife, who was reposted to another state by the Army.”

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 appeal is received, the Appeals Branch will schedule a hearing before a referee. You will receive a notice about the hearing, explaining when and where 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 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 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 available 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 may appeal the decision to the UI Commission. You must file your appeal within 15 days of the mailing date on the referee’s decision. The UI Commission will generally decide the appeal based only on the evidence presented to the referee.

If you disagree with the Commission’s decision, you have 20 days to file an appeal with the Circuit Court in the Kentucky county where you were last employed.

Next Steps

If you are considering an appeal, review the helpful information and links at the Kentucky OET’s Benefit Appeals page. There, you’ll find information on deadlines, what to include in your appeal, how the hearing works, 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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