When the state of Oklahoma denies your claim for unemployment benefits, your next step should be to determine whether you have a good cause to appeal their determination. You must act quickly, as appeals are time-limited. The appeal will give you the opportunity to argue your case before an administrative law judge (called a hearing officer in Oklahoma) and use similar rights as you would in a court trial.
The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OSEC) will mail you a Notice of Eligibility Determination when they have determined whether you will receive benefits. That notice will inform you of your appeal rights. The first thing you should note is that you have 10 calendar days in which to file an appeal to the OSEC Appeal Tribunal.
Filing Your Unemployment Appeal
You may file the appeal online using the claimant portal, or in writing via email, fax, letter or personal delivery. If you file a written appeal, you should include:
- Name and Social Security number
- The date of the determination you are appealing
- A detailed explanation of why you are appealing the determination
The state asks that you also include the section of OK unemployment law you are appealing. This may be difficult for non-lawyers to find. The section of law the OSEC used in denying your claim should be included in your determination.
If you file late, you risk losing your right to appeal. You may be allowed to show the Appeals Tribunal that circumstances beyond your control caused you to file late. If you can show this, your appeal may go forward.
The Appeals Tribunal will mail a notice that they are processing your appeal. The Tribunal will mail another notice when it has scheduled your appeal. The Notice of Hearing will include the date, time and place of your hearing.
You may receive a Notice of Telephone Hearing. This simply indicates that your hearing will be via conference call. In-person hearings are usually held in Oklahoma City. The distance may be too great for one or both parties to travel there, so fairness dictates a phone hearing. You will have to register your telephone number either through the online portal or by calling the Tribunal.
If the issue you are appealing involves your separation from work, your former employer will receive notice of the hearing. They will have the right to appear and present evidence and testimony.
If you find that you have a scheduling conflict with the hearing date, your best course of action is to rearrange your schedule. The Appeals Tribunal will only reschedule the hearing if you can show a substantial and compelling reason to change the date.
You may ask for a continuance (rescheduling). You must make the request in writing. You can fax the request to (405) 601-3337 or mail it in. You must make the request at least four days prior to your hearing date.
You must continue to file your weekly claims during the entire appeal process. You cannot be paid for any weeks you don’t file a claim. If you are currently receiving benefits, and your employer files an appeal, you may have to repay the benefits if the employer’s appeal is successful.
Preparing for the Appeal
You have the right to utilize several tools during the hearing. You can use these tools to help build a logical, fact-based case to the hearing officer.
You may have an attorney represent you at the hearing or a designated agent or friend. Many represent themselves at hearings without difficulty. If you plan to hire a lawyer, you should notify the Appeals Unit as soon as possible. Attorneys have specific rules to follow, and the Unit must approve the attorney’s fee.
If you want to have someone testify at the hearing, they should be prepared to testify as to the facts regarding your separation from work (if that is the issue of your appeal). They should have first-hand knowledge about what happened. Character witnesses do not usually provide helpful testimony unless your character is at issue.
If you have an in-person hearing scheduled, but your witness lives too far from Oklahoma City, you may request to have the hearing officer telephone the witness. A written statement from a witness would not be weighted as strongly as live witness testimony, so it would be in your interest to petition for the phone call.
You may present relevant documents that can help prove your case. You can present paperwork regularly produced in the course of business, like time sheets or notices from your supervisor. Other written evidence should be presented if you can have the person who created the document present at the hearing.
You must provide copies of the evidence you’ll use to the hearing officer and the opposing party in advance of the hearing. You should have all your evidence ready days before the hearing date. If you can’t provide a copy to the opposing party or the hearing officer before the hearing, the hearing officer may not allow you to enter the evidence as an exhibit, or be forced to stop the hearing and reschedule.
For audio or video evidence, your exhibits must be in the following formats:
- Video: MP4, MP2, AVI, ASF, and DVDs that can be played in a standard DVD player
- Audio: MP3, CDA, and WAV
- Electronic Images: JPG, TIF, Adobe Acrobat (PDF), and BMP
If you have a telephone hearing, it will be your responsibility to make sure that the hearing officer and your former employer get copies of your evidence. You must get it to them prior to the hearing date.
Someone you want to testify may be reluctant to participate. There may exist evidence that someone like your former employer may not want to give you. In these cases, you may request that the hearing officer issue a subpoena. The subpoena will compel the witness to appear or a person to turn over the evidence you need.
You will need to include the following information in your request for a subpoena:
- The case number, date and location of the hearing,
- The name and home address of the witness and
- A brief summary of expected testimony of each witness or the records requested from each witness.
If you are requesting a subpoena for documents, include:
- The docket number, date and location of the hearing,
- A description of the document or records so they can be easily identified. You must tell in specific detail why they are needed for your case.
- The name and address of the person who now has the document.
Any request for subpoena(s) must be received by the Appeal Tribunal at least five days before the date of the scheduled hearing.
The hearing officer will decide whether a subpoena is necessary. If the hearing officer denies your request, you may discuss this during the hearing so that the denial of your evidence is on record during the appeal.
At the Hearing
If you have some emergency and cannot make the hearing, you may make a request at the scheduled start time of the hearing if you are able. The hearing officer will make a ruling at that time.
If you filed the appeal and the hearing officer denies your emergency request, the original OSEC determination will stand. You may have to request a reopening of the hearing or appeal to a higher authority.
If you miss the hearing completely and cannot notify the Appeals Tribunal, the hearing officer will dismiss your case if you filed the appeal. If your former employer filed the appeal, the hearing will go on without you. You will have to request a reopening of the hearing, showing reasons beyond your control for missing the hearing.
You should be on time for the hearing, arriving 10 minutes early for an in-person hearing. Make sure you register your telephone number if you have a telephone hearing. You should use a landline number for the hearing.
The Hearing officer will conduct the hearing in a similar fashion to a court trial. The procedure is less formal, however. You will be sworn in and receive instructions from the Hearing officer.
Both parties to the hearing will present their testimony, evidence and witnesses under oath. Both parties will be able to “cross examine” the other party’s testimony and witnesses. Both parties may make closing statements.
The Hearing officer will decide based on the facts presented at the hearing and an application of Oklahoma’s unemployment law to those facts. The Hearing officer will mail the decision to both parties.
The Hearing officer may reverse the original decision, modify it, allow the original decision to stand, or send it back to the OSEC for further review. You should receive the decision within 14 days of your hearing.
If you disagree with the Hearing officer’s decision, you may file an appeal to the Board of Review. The Hearing officer’s decision will provide instructions on how to process that appeal.
P.O. Box 53345
Oklahoma City, OK 73152
Phone: (405) 601-3311
Fax: (405) 601-3337