Frequently Asked Questions by Claimants Applying for Unemployment Benefits
A series of questions and answers to help you navigate the process
I’ve lost my job. Can I apply for unemployment benefits?
You can and you should. Unemployment benefits are designed to provide temporary income relief to people who are unemployed through no fault of their own. The money for these benefits are generated by annual taxes paid by businesses. By law, they may not be deducted from wages paid to employees.
It’s also important to file for your unemployment benefits as soon as possible. You only get benefits for the time you’re unemployed after your initial claim for benefits, not before. You will not get benefits for the time you were unemployed that falls before your initial claim. So filing for your unemployment benefits earlier on works to your advantage.
Where do I apply for unemployment benefits?
To apply for unemployment benefits, you need to contact the Texas Workforce Commission and file an initial claim. You can apply either online or by phone. When you apply, there is certain information you will need. This includes your employer’s contact information and address, the dates on which you worked for the employer, your hours worked, pay rate, the age for the job you’re seeking and an alien registration number. The Texas Workforce Commission’s website explains the process here.
How much money will I get for unemployment benefits?
The amount of money you will get depends on a variety of different factors, including the previous amounts that you made in the months prior to the claim and information reported by your employer. The Texas Workforce Commission provides an unemployment benefits calculator on it’s website.
It’s important to know that unemployment benefits are not meant to be a permanent solution for a lost job. Unemployment benefits do not last. You are required to be making an active search for work while being paid those benefits. However, in times of need, unemployment benefits can be an effective way to help pay the bills while you get back on your feet.
My unemployment benefits were denied! What do I do?
The first thing that you need to do is appeal before the deadline. The Commission only gives you fourteen days from the date the decision is mailed to file an appeal challenging the determination denying you your benefits. The Commission is very strict about this deadline, and failing to appeal on time will almost always result in your benefits remaining denied. Also, that fourteen day time limit starts when the decision gets mailed, not when you receive it! So it’s important that you send in your appeal right away.
Why does my employer get to challenge my unemployment benefits?
Your employer may be challenging your unemployment benefits to avoid paying a higher rate of taxes. Under Texas law, specifically Sec. 204.021 of the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act, an employer’s account with the Texas Workforce Commission is subject to something called “chargeback” for benefits paid to an employee. Essentially, if you get awarded benefits, the employer has to pay an increase in taxes to cover that rate, unless a certain legal exclusion applies. So to avoid having to pay for a chargeback to the account, employers will often resort to challenging the awarding of benefits.
Do I need an attorney for my unemployment benefits hearing?
No, the Commission permits all employees to represent themselves at a hearing. However, there are many reasons why you may want to have an attorney appear on your behalf. Statistically, employers prevail over employees at unemployment hearings at a much greater rate than employees winning. It is often the case that at unemployment hearings, employers are represented by members of upper management, human resources, unemployment benefits consultants, and employment lawyers. These teams often submit documents well in advance of the hearing to prove to the hearings officer that the employee knew or should’ve known his or her actions amounted to misconduct or lacked good cause. These documents can include the employer’s handbook, policy manuals, and other things that you signed on the first day of work but may not have thoroughly examined. Employers also tend to present multiple
witnesses who remain employed with them to testify on their behalf. Oftentimes, these witnesses will be your former colleagues, and it is often the case that they may not willing to testify on your behalf for fear of losing their jobs. Also, the focus of the hearings is oftentimes on the final incident at the workplace. In these instances, all the employer has to do is show that the employee didn’t abide by work policy on the final incident to demonstrate misconduct or a lack of good cause. While you may want to discuss earlier incidents in your work history that may give greater context, a hearings officer may restrict your testimony and prevent you from discussing other issues besides the final incident.
The following are situations where you may want to consider retaining an attorney
- You were fired:
- After being late or absent
- When you disagreed with a boss or expressed disapproval at the workplace
- After a workplace accident you were involved in
- For off-duty work behavior
- Upon being suspected of stealing, cheating, lying, dishonesty, or company theft
- Due to an injury, illness, pregnancy, or age
- After a you failed or refused a drug test or alcohol test
- You were accused of not doing your work properly or adequately
- After a workplace altercation
- You were accused of violating a company rule
- You resigned:
- After a remark made by your boss at work
- In response to an unfair write-up or warning
- Due to the distance to work or transportation issues
- Due to an injury, illness, pregnancy, or age
- Because of military service of you or your spouse
- After your boss demanded that you quit or get fired
- Due to a change in hours or wages
- Due to a change in the agreement of your working conditions
It’s incredibly important to present as much relevant information as possible during the hearing at the Appeals Tribunal stage. If you are denied your unemployment benefits at this stage, oftentimes, your only recourse are final appeals to the Commission, and then (possibly) a civil court. It is extremely rare to get an additional hearing or chance to present more evidence after the appeals hearing with the Appeals Tribunal. Oftentimes, the hearing at the Appeals Tribunal stage is the only shot you have of personally presenting your side of what happened. This is why these hearings are so important. An affordable attorney with unemployment benefits hearings experience can make a difference in whether you can put food on the table for the next few months.
How do I prepare for my unemployment benefits hearing?
You will receive a hearing packet in the mail. The hearing packet will include a notice on the first page, with the date and time of your hearing, as well as instructions on how to register for the hearing.
The very next page will list the issues to be decided in the hearing. The next few pages will detail the laws, rules of evidence, and guidelines for the hearing. The third part will list the notes of the claims examiners interviews of both you and the employer on the accounts of how the work separation took place. At the end of the section, the claims examiner will list the claims examiner’s determination of whether benefits were awarded and a brief statement of the reason behind the determination. The next few pages will have pages sent by both the employer and the employee to the claims examiner that the claims examiner used to reach his or her decision. The final few pages will typically include the actual appeal of the appealing party.
You should review this packet in its entirety. If there aspects of the documents that you feel are relevant and you would like to discuss, you should make a point of highlighting and remembering those provisions for the hearing. If you believe that there are additional documents not included in the packet that you want to discuss at the hearing, you will need to submit copies before the hearing to both the hearings officer and the other party. If there are witnesses that will testify on your behalf that you wish to present, you must either have them register for the hearing as well or have their names and phone numbers ready at the start of the hearing so they can be dialed.
If you have an unemployment appeals hearings coming up soon, call Laforest Law Firm, P.C. today for an absolutely free consultation!