How to Appeal an Unemployment Denial in Maryland

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

If your claim for unemployment benefits has been denied in Maryland, you may think that you’re out of luck. But that’s not necessarily true. In Maryland, 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.

Why Unemployment Claims Are Denied

In Maryland, you will receive a Notice of Benefit Determination 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:

  • Failing to meet the earnings requirements.  In Maryland, 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. (For more information on earning requirements, see  Collecting Unemployment Benefits in Maryland.)
  • 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. If, however, you have a compelling personal or work-related reason for quitting, such as the need to care for a seriously ill family member or unsafe working conditions that your employer wouldn’t fix, you might still qualify for benefits.
  • Getting fired for misconduct.  In Maryland, you are not eligible for benefits if you were fired for misconduct. 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 repeatedly violated workplace policies, engaged in serious misbehavior, or acted maliciously, you won’t get benefits.
  • Refusing  suitable work.  To receive benefits, you must look for new work and accept a suitable job if you are offered one.

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 engaged in misconduct, filing an appeal might be a good idea.

How to File an Appeal

You must file your appeal within 15 days of the mailing date on the Notice of Benefit Determination. You can mail or fax your written appeal to the Appeals Division of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR). For information on where to send or fax your appeal, see  Unemployment Insurance Appeals  at the website of the Maryland DLWD.

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 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 to qualify, you might say, “The Determination misstated my earnings from the last quarter of 2014, 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 the time your application should have been accepted – but only if you’ve been following the usual rules to receive benefits.

The Hearing

Once you file your appeal, the Appeals Division will schedule a hearing, to take place either in person or by phone. If you live 50 or more miles away from the hearing location, you have the right to a telephone hearing.

At the hearing, the Hearing Examiner 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 Examiner 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 Examiner’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 will have a chance to make a closing argument. Make sure to state all of the reasons why you believe you are entitled to benefits.

The Decision

After the hearing, the Appeals Division 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 Board of Appeals of the Maryland DLLR. You must mail or fax a letter to the Board, explaining that you wish to appeal and why you disagree with the Hearing Examiner’s decision. The deadline for filing this second appeal will be listed at the bottom of the Examiner's decision. For more information, see the DLLR's  frequently asked questions on appeals.

Typically, the Board of Appeals doesn’t hold another hearing or take any additional evidence. If the second appeal doesn’t go your way, you may appeal to the Maryland Circuit Court within 30 days.

Next Steps

If you are considering an appeal, review the helpful information on the  Unemployment Insurance Appeals page  of the Maryland DLLR. 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.

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