How to Appeal an Unemployment Denial in Virginia

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

If your claim for unemployment benefits has been denied in Virginia, you may think that you’re out of luck. But that’s not necessarily true. In Virginia, 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 application for unemployment should have been accepted.

This article explains some common reasons why unemployment claims are denied, how to appeal a denial of unemployment benefits, and how to argue your case. For more information on unemployment benefits in general, see our Collecting Unemployment Benefits page.

Why Unemployment Claims Are Denied

You will receive a Notice of Deputy’s Determination from the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) if your unemployment claim has been denied. This notice 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:

  • Failing to meet the earnings requirements. In Virginia (as in most states), you must have earned a minimum amount in wages from employers who are covered by the state’s unemployment laws (most are), during a 12-month stretch called the “base period." In Virginia, you must have earned at least $3,000 during the base period, and you must have worked in at least two quarters of that period.
  • 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. In Virginia, you may still be eligible for benefits if you quit for compelling work-related reasons, such as dangerous working conditions or discrimination that your employer refused to correct. You will also remain eligible if you quit to relocate with a military spouse who is reassigned.
  • Getting fired for misconduct. In Virginia, you are not eligible for benefits if you were fired for misconduct. In Virginia, misconduct includes behavior such as lying about a criminal record, failing a drug test, or missing work repeatedly. Misconduct does not include situations where you were simply a poor fit or lacked the skills to do your job well.
  • Refusing suitable work. To receive benefits, you must look for new work and accept a suitable job if you are offered one. (See Collecting Unemployment Benefits in Virginia 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.

How to File an Appeal

If your claim for benefits is denied, you must file an appeal within 30 days of the mailing date on the Notice of Deputy’s Determination. You may file your appeal by mail, by fax, or online to the VEC.

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 from your last job for misconduct, you might state, “I was laid off along with the rest of my department when the company outsourced our jobs.”

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 when your application should have been accepted – but only if you’ve been following the usual rules to receive benefits.

The Hearing

You will receive a notice of hearing from the VEC, explaining when and where the hearing will take place. Although many states routinely hold hearings by phone, the VEC typically holds hearings in person.

At the hearing, the appeals examiner 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 you have showing 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 present copies of your documents to the appeals examiner.

During the hearing, make sure you are available on time, with your documents and any witnesses you want to present. Make sure to answer all of the appeals examiner’s questions thoughtfully and carefully. 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.

The Decision

After the hearing, the appeals examiner will issue a written decision on your claim. 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 Office of Commission Appeals. The appeals examiner’s decision will explain how and when you must file this appeal.

If you want the Office of Commission Appeals to hold another hearing, you must request one within 14 days of receiving the notice of appeal. Otherwise, the Commission will decide your case on the evidence presented at the initial hearing.

If the special examiner of the Office of Commission Appeals doesn’t decide in your favor, you may appeal that decision to the Virginia Circuit Court in the county or city where you were last employed.

Next Steps

If you are considering an appeal, review the helpful information in the Appeal Rights section of the VEC’s Unemployment Insurance Handbook for Claimants. It includes deadlines, information on what to include in your appeal, 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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