If your claim for unemployment benefits has been denied in Michigan, you may think that you’re out of luck. But that’s not necessarily true. In Michigan, 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 date that your claim 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 argue your case. For more information on unemployment benefits in general, see our Collecting Unemployment Benefits page.
You will receive a determination letter from the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) if your unemployment claim has been denied. This determination 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 Michigan (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. (For more information on the earnings requirements, and the other requirements listed below, see Collecting Unemployment Benefits in Michigan.)
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. In Michigan, you may have good cause if you quit for a job-related reason, such as dangerous working conditions or discrimination that your employer refused to correct.
In Michigan, you are not eligible for benefits if you were fired for misconduct. In Michigan, misconduct includes failing a drug test, assaulting someone, theft, or failing to show up for work for several days. Misconduct does not typically include situations where you were simply a poor fit or lacked the skills to do your job sufficiently.
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 were fired for misconduct, filing an appeal might be a good idea.
If you want to appeal the UIA’s denial of your claim for benefits, you must file a protest of the determination within 30 days. You can file the protest electronically, by fax, or by mail, using the UIA's protest form. You must attach any documents you want the UIA to consider.
The UIA will issue a redetermination of your claim. If you don’t agree with this redetermination, you may appeal within 30 days. You can file your appeal in the same manner as your protest, using the UIA's appeal form.
When you file your protest or 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 the time your application should have been accepted – but only if you’ve been following the usual rules to receive benefits.
If you're not satisfied with the redetermination and you file an appeal, your case will be scheduled for a hearing. You will receive a hearing notice from the Michigan Administrative Hearing System, explaining the time and place of the hearing and whether it will be in person or by phone.
At the hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) 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. Michigan also makes independent advocates available, for free, to employees in unemployment hearings. You can find more information about the advocates in the online Guide to Unemployment Insurance Appeals Hearing.
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 ALJ.
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 has the right to question you and your witnesses. Once all 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.
After the hearing, the ALJ 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 Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission. The ALJ’s decision will explain how and when to file this appeal.
The Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission typically doesn’t holdbase another hearing or take new evidence. Instead, the Commission decides the case based on the facts that were presented to the ALJ. If the Commission doesn’t decide in your favor, you may file a lawsuit in state court.
If you are considering an appeal, review the helpful information in the Michigan UIA's Guide to Unemployment Insurance Appeals Hearing. 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.