How to Appeal an Unemployment Denial in South Carolina

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

You may still be able to collect unemployment benefits in South Carolina even if the Department of Employment and Workforce denied your claim. In South Carolina, as in every state, you have the right to file an appeal. If you win, you can collect benefits retroactively from the date when your claim was first denied.

This article explains how to file an unemployment appeal in South Carolina. You’ll find information on why claims are typically denied, the deadlines and process for filing an appeal, and how the appeal hearing works. (You can find general information on unemployment insurance at our page on Collecting Unemployment Benefits.)

Why Unemployment Claims Are Denied

The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce will send you a determination letter if it denies your claim. The letter will provide information on why your claim was denied and how to file an appeal. Here are some common reasons why claimants are denied unemployment benefits:

  • Insufficient earnings. You must meet three earnings requirements to qualify for benefits in South Carolina. First, you must have earned at least $4,455 in a 12-month stretch (called the "base period") before you applied for benefits. Second, you must have earned at least $1,092 during the quarter of the base period in which you earned the most. Third, your total earnings in the base period must be at least 1.5 times what you earned in the highest paid quarter.
  • Discharge for misconduct. The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce will deny your claim if you were fired for misconduct. If you were fired because you were simply not a good fit or lacked the skills necessary to do your job, you will still be eligible for benefits. However, you will be disqualified from receiving benefits if you were fired for intentionally violating your employer’s rules or disregarding your employer’s interests. If you were fired for good cause that doesn’t rise to the level of misconduct, you may still be disqualified from receiving benefits for a period of time.
  • Quitting your last job. You must be out of work through no fault of your own to qualify for unemployment benefits in South Carolina. You will be ineligible if you quit your job voluntarily, without good cause. But you may still be eligible if you had good cause to quit, such as unsafe working conditions, a violation of your employment agreement, or compelling family reasons.
  • Refusing suitable work. You may collect benefits in South Carolina only if you are actively searching for a job. If you turn down suitable work, you won’t be eligible for benefits. (You can find more information on these requirements in Collecting Unemployment Benefits in South Carolina.)

If you believe the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce denied your claim in error, you should file an appeal. For example, if your claim was denied as a termination for misconduct, but you were actually laid off, it’s worth your time and trouble to pursue an appeal. On the other hand, if you simply didn’t earn enough to meet the earnings requirement, it doesn’t make sense to file an appeal.

How to Appeal a Denial of Benefits in South Carolina

If your claim for benefits is denied, you can appeal the decision to the Appeals Tribunal of the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce. You can file your appeal by mail or by fax. You must file your appeal within ten calendar days of the mailing date of the decision you are appealing.

You can write an appeal letter or use the Notice of Appeal to the Appeals Tribunal form (there’s a link to the form on the Department of Employment and Workforce’s appeals page). In your appeal, state that you are appealing the initial decision and explain why you believe you should receive benefits. For example, if the decision letter states that you were denied benefits because you quit voluntarily, you might say: “I was told that my entire department was being laid off and that I had to resign in lieu of discharge."

While your appeal is pending, file weekly claims for unemployment benefits, search for a new job, and keep records of your search for work, just as you would have if your claim for benefits had been granted. If you win your appeal, you will be entitled to benefits retroactively from the date when your claim should have been granted in the first place—but only if you have been filing claims and looking for a job along the way.

The Hearing

Once you file an appeal, you will receive a written hearing notice explaining when the hearing will take place and how to submit documents and witness testimony. An administrative hearing officer will run the hearing and decide your appeal. Most appeal hearings in South Carolina are held by phone conference.

At the hearing, the officer will ask questions and review evidence. Your employer will also be included in the hearing and may be represented by an attorney. You can hire your own attorney, if you wish.

This hearing is your only opportunity to submit evidence and testimony, so be prepared to present all of your documents and witnesses. If there is a dispute over why you were fired, for example, you should submit any paperwork you have showing that you were not fired for misconduct, such as a layoff notice. 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.

Be ready for your hearing on time, with your documents and any witnesses you want to present. Make sure to answer the officer’s questions carefully and completely. You have the right to question your employer’s witnesses, and your employer (or its representative) 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. Make sure you state all of the reasons why you believe you are entitled to benefits, referring to the evidence or testimony that supports your arguments.

The Decision

The administrative hearing officer will mail you and your employer a written decision on your claim. If you win your appeal, you don’t have to do anything further. You should begin receiving benefits soon.

If you lose your appeal, you have ten days to appeal the decision to the Appellate Panel of the Department of Employment and Workforce. The decision will explain how and where to file your appeal.

If the Appellate Panel also rules against you, you may appeal to the South Carolina Administrative Law Court. You have 30 days to file your lawsuit.

Next Steps

If you are considering an appeal, check out the appeals information at the Department of Employment and Workforce’s website. This includes deadlines and procedural rules, as well as helpful tips on preparing for the hearing and presenting your evidence.

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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