Has your application for unemployment benefits been denied in Texas? If so, you don't have to give up just yet. In every state, including Texas, you can appeal a denial of unemployment benefits. If you win your appeal, you will receive all benefits to which you are entitled. This includes retroactive benefits: benefits from the date that your application should have been accepted.
This article explains some common reasons why unemployment claims are denied, how to file an appeal, and what to expect at the appeal hearing. For more information on unemployment benefits in general, see our Collecting Unemployment Benefits page.
If your unemployment claim is denied, you will receive a document called Determination on Payment of Unemployment Benefits from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). The determination will explain why your claim was denied and provide information on the appeals process.
Common reasons why unemployment claims are denied include:
To qualify for benefits in Texas (as in most states), you must have earned a minimum amount in wages during a 12-month stretch called the "base period."
Under Texas law, you will be denied benefits if you were fired for misconduct. If you were fired for intentionally failing to perform your job, breaking the law, or violating company policy, you will likely be disqualified from receiving benefits. On the other hand, if you were simply a poor fit or lacked the skills to perform your job, you will probably still be eligible for benefits.
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 Texas, good cause means a compelling reason, one that would have caused someone who truly wanted to keep the job to quit. For example, you may have good cause if you quit due to unsafe working conditions your employer failed to remedy, to escape domestic violence, or the need to relocate with a military spouse.
To receive benefits, you must look for new work and accept a suitable job if you are offered one. (See Collecting Unemployment Benefits in Texas for more information on these eligibility requirements.)
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's a close case as to whether you were fired for misconduct, filing an appeal might be a good idea.
If your claim for benefits is denied, you have 14 days to file your appeal with the Appeal Tribunal of the TWC. You can file your appeal in person, by mail, by fax, or by using the online appeals form.
When you file your 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 for misconduct, you might state, "I was forced to quit my job due to my asthma, which was worsening due to exposure to fumes in the manufacturing process. My employer was unable to grant my request for a reasonable accommodation or job transfer, and my doctor advised me that my job was endangering my health."
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 date your application should have been accepted – but only if you've been following the usual rules to receive benefits.
After your request for hearing is received, the Appeal Tribunal will schedule a telephone hearing before a hearing officer. You will receive a notice of hearing, explaining when the hearing will take place 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 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 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 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 ready 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.
After the hearing, the officer will issue a written decision on your claim. If you win your appeal, you don't have to do anything further.
If the Appeal Tribunal decides against you, you have 14 days to file an appeal with the TWC. You can file this appeal online, or by mail, fax, or hand delivery. Typically, the TWC won't hold another hearing and will make a decision based on the evidence submitted to the referee.
If you disagree with the TWC decision, you can either file a Motion for Rehearing or an appeal to civil court. A Motion for Rehearing may be granted only if you have important new information, a good reason for not presenting it earlier, and a strong argument that the information would change the outcome in your case.
If you don't have grounds to file a Motion for Rehearing, you can appeal the TWC's decision in state court.
If you are considering an appeal, review the helpful information at the TWC's page, How to Appeal a Decision. It includes information on deadlines, what to include in your appeal, the hearing process, 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.