If your claim for unemployment benefits has been denied in Missouri, you may think that you’re out of luck. But that’s not necessarily true. In Missouri, 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 unemployment application 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.
In Missouri, you will receive a Notice of Deputy’s 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:
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 call as to whether you committed misconduct, filing an appeal might be a good idea.
You must file your appeal within 30 days of the date on the Notice of Deputy's Determination. You can mail or fax your written appeal to the Appeals Tribunal of the Missouri Division of Employment Security. The Determination will provide additional details on how to file your appeal. For more information, you can also see How to File an Appeal at the website of the Missouri Department of Industrial Relations (which includes a link to the blank appeal form).
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 my job because I was being sexually harassed and my employer refused to do anything about it." Or, if the Determination states that you did not earn enough to qualify, you might say, “The Determination misstated my earnings from the second quarter of 2015, which should have been $4,000 rather than $400.”
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.
Once you file your appeal, the Appeals Tribunal will schedule a hearing. Most hearings are initially scheduled to be heard by phone. However, you have the right to request an in-person hearing, if you wish. You’ll receive a written Notice of Hearing, which will provide the date and time of your hearing, as well as information on how to prepare.
At the hearing, the Tribunal 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 that shows 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 to prove 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 get copies of your documents to the Tribunal 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 Tribunal’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.
After the hearing, the Tribunal 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 Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission. You have 30 days from the mailing date of the Tribunal's decision to file this appeal.
If the second appeal doesn’t go your way, you may appeal to the Missouri Court of Appeals.
If you are considering an appeal, review the helpful information at the website of the Unemployment Appeals Tribunal. 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, use Nolo's Lawyer Directory.