Employment security benefits—or what is commonly known as “unemployment benefits”—are designed to help employees transition from one position of employment to another where employees lose their job through no fault of their own or who quit their job for good cause related to the work or employer. In Missouri, claims for unemployment benefits are filed with and processed through the Division of Employment Security of the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (the “Division”).
Eligibility and Process
Upon receipt of an application for unemployment benefits, a deputy with the Division determines eligibility for benefits, including the amount of any such entitlement. Applicants must properly follow the administrative requirements to receive unemployment benefits. In addition to criteria regarding the reasons for the loss of employment, there are also eligibility requirements tied to the amount of the employee’s earnings from the employer during a specified time period. One does not necessarily need to lose one’s job in order to qualify for some form of unemployment benefits. In Missouri, if you have your hours reduced, you may be eligible for partial unemployment benefits. However, there are certain additional requirements that you must fulfill on an ongoing basis in order to maintain eligibility for such benefits.
Benefits may initially be denied if an employer challenges a former employee’s eligibility. When this occurs, a hearing can be requested by either the employer or the employee so that the Division can make a final determination as to the employee’s eligibility for unemployment benefits. Like benefit applications, one must properly follow the administrative requirements to appeal an eligibility determination and request a hearing before the Division.
Hearings and Appeals before the Division
If either party believes a Division determination is incorrect, it can appeal and request a hearing. To establish a solid factual and legal basis for or against an appeal, obtaining legal counsel is generally in a party's best interest. Legal counsel can help advise at the outset as to whether an appeal would be worth pursuing. It is important to note that requests for appeal must be made within a relatively small window of time, usually only thirty (30) days from the date of the Division’s initial determination.
Unemployment hearings may be held by telephone or in person at the Division before a referee or Appeals Tribunal. Both parties have the right to legal counsel at the time of a hearing. During the hearing, counsel can help present a party's case in the most persuasive light. Representation made with a thorough understanding of the legally relevant facts and issues can have a significant impact on the ultimate decision reached.
The referee or Appeals Tribunal will function as an administrative judge that hears argument and evidence from the parties. Subpoenas may be requested to obtain witness testimony or other evidence not within your possession. Often, this hearing is the only opportunity during the appeal process that a party will have to present evidence into the record, so it can be important to have the assistance of legal counsel who knows how to obtain, present and admit evidence at a formal hearing. In most cases, a decision is not rendered at the end of the hearing, and the referee or Appeals Tribunal later submits a decision articulating the basis for granting or denying benefits.
Hearing and Appeals before the Commission
If a party disagrees with the decision of the referee or Appeals Tribunal, it may file an appeal to the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (“Commission”). The Commission consists of three members. Such appeal must be filed within thirty (30) days of the decision being mailed. There are limitations at this stage on the process in terms of a party’s ability to present additional evidence. See 8 C.S.R. 20-4.010(5). Once the Commission completes its review of the case, a written decision is prepared and mailed to the parties. The Commission’s decision will become final ten (10) days after it is issued. Any appeal of the Commission’s decision must be filed with the Missouri Court of Appeals within twenty (20) days after the decision becomes final.
Legal Representation in Unemployment Proceedings
While legal counsel is not always necessary in unemployment benefit hearings, both employers and employees have the right to consult with an attorney. Prior to a hearing, legal counsel can help determine the bases upon which benefits might be denied or obtained. Such an analysis is essential to determining the best strategic position for a successful outcome or any appeals that may become necessary following a decision of the Division or Commission.
Several additional factors may impact the decision to retain legal counsel. It is important to consider whether the hearing may impact other legal matters, such as claims of discrimination for employees or other unemployment benefits claims or hearings for employers. Another important consideration is simply the amount of money at stake in unemployment benefits.
To obtain legal guidance and representation through the unemployment benefit process, contact the Law Offices of Kevin J. Dolley by phone at (314) 645-4100 or by email at email@example.com. All legal consultations are held strictly confidential.