Workplace Rights

Weekly (11/8/10)

Topic of the Week  You Earned It: What To Do When Your Unemployment Claim is Rejected:

DO file.
DO research.
DO pursue a hearing.
DON'T give up.

The only thing worse than losing your job? Not having a cushion from unemployment insurance to fall back on because your company challenges your claim. But people have successfully fought their company and won. Which reminds me of the pelican problem in Yellowstone National Park, the birds were gorging on many sport fish and hurting sensitive populations of cutthroat trout. So officials have decided to introduce natural predators into the park, badgers and skunks. The hope is that the predators will reduce the damage done by the pelicans.

In a perfect world you'd just get the unemployment compensation you're earned after getting let go. But in tough times, more companies are fighting these claims. That's why you've got to get your own unique brand of predators to support your efforts; lawyers and witnesses. I'll provide three Do's and one Don't to fight back and get the unemployment insurance that you've earned. For more, check out Fred Stiengold's book "Employer's Legal Handbook" (Nolo, 2009).

DO file. I've heard from many people who are so sure that their former company will challenge their unemployment claim that they don't even apply. Or people who feel guilty about filing, like it's some sort of handout. If either of those positions sounds familiar to you, you've got to learn to let it go. Apply for unemployment insurance. It's there to help you transition to what's next and you should pursue getting this help.

DO research. Talk to other people who've worked for your company and who've gone on unemployment, learn everything that you can from them. However, just because your company fought someone else's claim, doesn't mean they'll definitely fight yours. But you do need to learn as much as you can going into the process. Stiengold even suggests that you can ask the unemployment office to see the decisions by their review board that reviews disputed claims. This should give you a sense of what works, and what doesn't.

DO pursue a hearing. Just because your company wants to fight your claim, doesn't mean that you have to roll over and play dead. You can ask for a hearing, present evidence, bring a lawyer and even witnesses. I know this probably sounds daunting to all the non-lawyers out there, but you need to be prepared to fight for your unemployment claim. Again, doing research on past appeals and talking to others who've fought back will give you necessary insight as you go into battle.

DON'T give up. People have successfully challenged their company and the review boards. There is an entire system for appealing a decision. I won't lie, the odds aren't necessarily in your favor if it reaches the appeal stage. But people have fought back and won.

Follow these tips and the badgers and skunks won't be the only predator out there, you'll have your own team of cutthroats, lawyers and witnesses, fighting for you unemployment claim. And if nothing else, you should at least get a hearing for your concerns.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

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