How to Appeal an Unemployment Denial in Oregon

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

If your application for unemployment benefits was denied, you may think you are out of luck. However, Oregon – like all states – allows applicants to appeal a denial of benefits. If you win your appeal, you can collect benefits retroactively, from the date your claim should have been granted in the first place.

This article explains how unemployment appeals work in Oregon, 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 Oregon Employment Department (OED) denies your claim for unemployment benefits, it will send you an administrative decision, explaining why your claim was denied and how to file an appeal.

Here are some common reasons for denial of unemployment benefits:

  • Failing to meet the earnings requirements. In Oregon, 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, you must have worked at least 500 hours, and earned at least $1,000, to be eligible for unemployment. In the entire base period, you must also have earned at least 1.5 times what you earned in the highest paid quarter of the period.
  • Getting fired for misconduct. Under Oregon law, you will be denied benefits if you were fired for misconduct. If you were simply a poor fit or lacked the skills to perform your job, you may still be eligible for benefits. However, if you were fired for intentionally breaking workplace rules by, for example, coming to work intoxicated, being absent frequently without excuse, or insubordination, you will likely 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 will not receive benefits. But if you had a compelling reason to quit, such as your employer refusing to remedy unsafe working conditions, you might still be eligible.
  • 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 Oregon 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 decision to the Oregon Office of Administrative Hearings. You can file your appeal by phone, fax, or mail. You must file your appeal within 20 days of the mailing date of the denial letter.

In your appeal, explain why you believe you should receive benefits. For example, if the decision letter states that you were denied benefits because you were fired 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 Hearing

After your appeal is received, the Office of Administrative Hearings will schedule a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). 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 ALJ 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 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’ll have a chance to make a closing argument.

The Decision

After the hearing, the ALJ will issue a written decision on your claim. You should receive the decision by mail within a couple of weeks after your hearing. If you win your appeal, you should begin receiving benefits soon.

If the appeal doesn’t go your way, you may file an Application for Review with the Employment Appeals Board. You must file this appeal within 20 days of the mailing date on the ALJ’s decision. (The final day to file should be clearly marked on the decision.) The Board will generally review the transcript of your hearing and all evidence presented, to make sure the officer’s decision is correct. You can also present a written statement, if you wish. However, the Board generally does not hold another hearing or take new evidence.

If you disagree with the Board’s decision, you can appeal to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Next Steps

If you are considering an appeal, review the pamphlet Your Employment Department Hearing, available at the website of the Office of Administrative Hearings. 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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