By Attorney Earl Lawson
When you file for unemployment in Oklahoma, the unemployment office contacts your prior employer to ask why you were separated from the job. If your employer says you quit or you were fired, your unemployment claim could be in jeopardy. In those claims, the unemployment office might say your unemployment claim has been denied.
Don’t panic. You have a right to appeal denial of unemployment in Oklahoma. In fact, it is rather routine to appeal denial of unemployment benefits. With the right strategy, you can win your unemployment appeal and collect benefits while you look for a new job. The first thing you need to do is call the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (that’s the unemployment office) and tell them you plan to appeal.
Steps in an Oklahoma Unemployment Appeal:
- After you call the OESC to file your claim for appeal of a denial you will be mailed a response. The letter will include your case number, the date and time of your hearing, the name of your hearing officer and matters to be decided during your hearing.
More often than not, the thing to be decided is whether the reason your employer claims for your separation from employment is valid.Be sure to look over this sheet carefully, because you will questioned heavily on the reason for separation. You can be sure your employer knows the alleged reason for denial. If it is a large company or a company that has a large turnover of employees, they have had a lot of practice defending the reason for separation.
- On the day of the hearing, the claimant — that’s you, the former employee — must call in to the Appeal Tribunal at least 10 minutes prior to the hearing to register their phone number. The employer will be doing the same. This call establishes the phone number where the hearing officer will call you back when the appeal starts. It also verifies that you are available and ready. Do not be late or fail to make that call. Everything is riding on that simple deadline.
- At the exact time of the hearing stated on the appeal notification the hearing officer will call the Claimant, and have them hold on the line while they call the employer. Make sure you are not on another call, or distracted in some way that makes you miss the call. You cannot be late for the hearing, because the hearing officer will not wait for you.
- In most cases it is the employer has the burden-of-proof and must prove their case. The employer will usually have evidence to be admitted into the record. Employers may submit work reports, reprimands and any other documents they believe will help prove their case. They may also testify verbally.
There are rules a person must adhere to when giving testimony. Some testimony is inadmissible, such as hearsay or irrelevant testimony. To win an unemployment appeal, the Claimant must be able to object to inadmissible evidence or testimony, otherwise the employer can enter damaging testimony that can really hurt the claimant’s case.
- The claimant then has the opportunity to ask the former employer questions about their testimony. If the Claimant does not know how to cross examine the employer, the hearing officer will likely not let them ask any more questions.
- The claimant then has the chance to tell their side of the story. The Claimant must be very careful to tell their side precisely and carefully, because the employer them has the opportunity to question the claimant over what they told the hearing officer. Remember, the employer often has a great deal of experience in conducting these hearing and knows how to trip the Claimants up.
Even an employer inexperienced in appeal hearings can gain an advantage because they are confident of their authority. Instinct might tell you that being submissive toward the former employer will convince the hearing officer you were a good employee, but that’s not how it works.
Your side must show that the employer failed to prove you do not meet requirements for unemployment claims in Oklahoma. That can mean standing up to the employer. As often as not, it can be better to have a more experienced person confront your former employer.
- The hearing officer also has the opportunity to ask questions during the entire hearing process. The hearing officer is specifically trained to listen for any inconsistency in testimony from each side. A skilled hearing officer tell when someone is trying to mislead the tribunal. Likewise, hearing officers recognize when either party is advancing well-organized arguments centered around Oklahoma unemployment requirements.
- After the Claimant had finished presenting their evidence, both sides have the opportunity to make a closing statement. The closing statement summarizes the points the parties were attempting to convey during the hearing.
- The hearing is then closed and the hearing officer hangs up.
- The hearing officer will make a decision 7 to 14 days later and mails it to both sides.
How to Win An Oklahoma Unemployment Appeal
By now you might have guessed, the way to win an unemployment appeal is to show the hearing officer that the employer failed to prove their case. When you know Oklahoma unemployment requirements as well as I do, it can still be a challenge. Especially when an employer is adamant that the employee deserved to be fired, disputing their case can be tough.
The thing that lets me win so many unemployment appeals is I know the case is not about what the employer thinks. It’s about what Oklahoma unemployment law sets forth as requirements for unemployment in Oklahoma.
An employer can fire you for breaking an unwritten rule or not following a presumed guideline and, unless you work for a public agency, there might be nothing you can do to get your job back. Yet, if the employer did not establish reasonable rules and guidelines, advise employees of those rules then fairly notify employees when those rules were broken, you might have a claim for unemployment even if you were fired. That is one of those times when Oklahoma unemployment lawyers can really make a difference.
Talk to an Oklahoma Unemployment Attorney
Many small companies let a foreman, supervisor, department head, administrator or human resources official represent the company at an unemployment hearing. Larger companies or even some smaller companies might have a lawyer put on the company’s case.
You have a right to an attorney, too. In most cases, you have a much stronger chance of winning your Oklahoma unemployment appeal if you have skilled unemployment attorney represent your case. A knowledgeable attorney knows you to challenge irrelevant testimony, and how to build a case around what Oklahoma unemployment requirements.
When I first talk to clients about their Oklahoma unemployment appeal, I never charge a fee for the consultation. I only win fees when I win a case for a client who earned unemployment benefits. My fees are based on your ability to pay once you begin collecting unemployment — after we win your appeal. To find out whether your circumstances are likely to make for a good unemployment appeal, call me today.
The consultation is free. There is no risk and you are under no obligation to sign up. You have nothing to lose and everything to win.
To set up your free consultation with an Oklahoma unemployment attorney, call (918) 923-3776, or click the button below to sign up for a no-obligation unemployment consultation now.