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Hawaii Appeals Process – What Happens When you’re Denied Benefits?

Last Verified: January 2017 “Our goal is to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information about your state’s unemployment rules. The date you see here reflects the most recent time we’ve verified this information with your state’s department.”

How to File an Unemployment Benefits Appeal in HI

You may either file your appeal online at the Unemployment Insurance Division’s web site, in person or by mail. When you file by mail, send it to the ESARO office at:


830 Punchbowl Street, Room 429

Honolulu, HI  96813

  • Write a written statement with a short explanation of why you are appealing the decision. You don’t have to have an argument ready at this time.
  • Include a copy of the determination notice you received.
  • Make sure you have included the correct contact information and your social security number.
  • The ESARO will notify you of the date, place and time of your hearing and the issues to be addressed.

The hearing may be held at the ESARO office or by telephone. The ESARO may chose a telephone hearing if it makes it easier for all involved.

Preparing for an Unemployment Appeals Hearing in Hawaii

The actual hearing is similar to the trials you may have seen on television, but more informal. The person who will be deciding the outcome of the case is the Appeals Officer. They are interested in the facts of what happened, and will then apply the law to those facts. Your job at the hearing will be to present the facts as you see them, what happened and why things turned out as they did when you were dismissed.

Make sure you read all documents relevant to your case carefully. This includes anything from the Unemployment Division examiner, any notices and the rules regarding the appeal.

You can hire an attorney if you want. You have a right to representation at the hearing. You can even ask a friend to represent you. Neither is necessary; you should be able to present your own case effectively.

If you want to have a witness at the hearing, ask them personally first. If you are worried that they may not show up, you may request a subpoena from the Appeals Officer. The Appeals Officer may not believe a subpoena is necessary and deny the request.

If the request is denied, make sure you bring it up at the hearing. The denial may end up being a crucial part of the record if the Appeals Office denies the appeal.

Prepare your argument. Consider the facts about what happened and be honest with yourself. Your argument should show that your employer did something or did not do something that caused the separation. If you were fired, show with facts why you should receive benefits anyway. The argument should not be based on an emotional plea.

Prepare questions for your employer. Your employer will receive notice of the hearing. You will have an opportunity to question them. The employer may have someone who represents employers in appeals hearings regularly or have their lawyer present. You don’t have to be intimidated by the situation. It is part of the Appeals Officer’s job to ensure a fair hearing.

Changing the Hearing Date

If you have a scheduling conflict, it is important to notify the ESARO as soon as possible. Make a request to postpone the hearing. The Appeals Officer may or may not approve the request, but will notify all parties of any changes.

What Happens in an Unemployment Appeals Hearing in Hawaii

Make sure you arrive to the hearing early or on time. If you are too late, and you are the person who filed the appeal, the Appeals Officer may decide the case against you. If your employer doesn’t appear at the hearing, the Appeals Officer will take your testimony and decide based on the evidence you present. This does not mean you automatically win.

  • At the start of the hearing, the Appeals Officer will give some preliminary information about procedure. Then, the parties will be sworn in.
  • The Appeals Officer will decide who will go first. It may be the party who filed the appeal, or it may be the party who carries the burden of proof (who has to prove their case). If the issue is whether you quit or were discharged, the employer may go first.
  • Make sure that both you and your witness have first-hand knowledge about the events surrounding your separation from work. Only present relevant evidence and testimony.
  • One party will present their case, telling the facts about what happened, showing their evidence or interviewing their witness. The Appeals Officer may ask questions before giving the other party the opportunity to ask theirs.
  • Next, the other party will present their case. You may ask questions when the Appeals Officer allows it.
  • Be respectful to all parties at the hearing. Do not talk over your former employer or their representative.
  • The Appeals Officer may ask more questions, and then allow both parties to make a closing statement.

After the hearing, the Appeals Officer will make their decision. They will inform both parties at a later date. There are no more administrative appeals available after this level. If you disagree with the Appeals Officer’s decision, you have to go to court.

Make sure to continue the weekly certifications during the entire appeals process.

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