How to Appeal an Unemployment Denial in Oklahoma

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

Has your Oklahoma claim for unemployment benefits been denied? If so, you have the right to appeal the decision. If your appeal is successful, you can collect benefits retroactively, from the date your claim should have been granted in the first place.

This article explains unemployment appeals in Oklahoma, including common reasons why unemployment claims are denied, how to file an appeal, and what to expect at the appeal hearing. For general information on unemployment compensation, see our Collecting Unemployment Benefits page.

Reasons for Denial of Unemployment Benefits

If the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) denies your claim for unemployment benefits, it will send you a written determination. In the determination, the OESC will explain why your claim was denied and how to appeal the decision.

Here are some common reasons for denial of unemployment benefits:

  • Failing to meet the earnings requirements. In Oklahoma, you must have earned a minimum amount in wages during a 12-month stretch called the “base period,” in order to qualify for benefits. Currently, this amount is $1,500. You must also have earned, in the entire base period, at least 1.5 times as much as you earned in the highest paid quarter of that period.
  • Getting fired for misconduct. Under Oklahoma law, you will be denied benefits if you were fired for misconduct. Being a poor fit or lacking the skills to perform your job generally don't qualify as misconduct. However, if you were fired for dishonesty, unexcused absences, violating safety rules, or other types of misconduct, you will be disqualified.
  • 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 your own illness prevented you from doing your job.
  • Refusing suitable work. You must be looking for a job to collect benefits; you may not turn down a suitable job if you are offered one. (See Collecting Unemployment Benefits in Oklahoma for more information on all of these eligibility requirements.)

It's not always worth your time to file an appeal. For example, if you simply haven’t earned enough in wages to qualify, there’s no point in filing an appeal. If, however, it's a close case as to whether you had a compelling reason to quit, filing an appeal might make more sense.

How to File an Appeal

If your claim for benefits is denied, you can appeal the determination to the Oklahoma Appeal Tribunal. You can file your appeal in person or by phone, email, fax, or mail. You must file your appeal within ten days of the mailing date of the denial letter.

In your appeal, you should 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 several other employees in my department, so the company could outsource our jobs.”

Throughout the appeal process, you should continue to file weekly claims for unemployment benefits, look for work, and keep records of your job search, just as you would if your application had been granted. If you win your appeal, you will be entitled to benefits retroactively from the date your claim should have been granted in the first place -- but only if you’ve been following the usual rules to receive benefits.

The Appeal Hearing

After your appeal is received, the Appeal Tribunal will schedule a hearing before a Hearing Officer. You will receive a written notice 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 officer 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 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 officer’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 Appeal Decision

After the hearing, the officer will issue a written decision on your claim. If you win your appeal, you should begin receiving benefits soon.

If the appeal doesn’t go your way, you may appeal to the Board of Review. You must file your appeal within ten days of the mailing date on the officer’s decision. The Board will generally review the transcript of your hearing and all evidence presented (but not hold another hearing), to make sure the officer’s decision is correct.

If you disagree with the Board’s decision, you can appeal to an Oklahoma District Court.

What to Do Next

If you are considering an appeal, review the Information for Appeal Hearings and Decisions page at the OESC website. 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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