If the Vermont Department of Labor (DOL) denies your claim for unemployment benefits, you may appeal their decision for any reason. The DOL appeals division will provide you with the opportunity to make your case in an administrative hearing in front of a judge called an Administrative Law Judge. You will have the right to present evidence, witness testimony and your own side of the story.
If the state has denied your claim or made any adverse decision, you will receive a notice about that decision or determination. That notice will include instructions on how to appeal the decision. Notice that you have 30 days from the mailing date on that notice to file your appeal (in some cases, the time period may be different).
If you cannot file a timely appeal, you must show the appeals unit that reasons beyond your control caused you to file late. Contact the appeals unit immediately if you are past the deadline.
Continue to file a weekly claim while the process is going on, starting immediately after you receive the denial. If you are awarded benefits on appeal, you cannot get benefits for any week you did not file a claim.
How to File
You have several methods of filing an appeal. However, all appeal requests are written. You may write your own or use the form from the DOL website.
If you write your own, you must include:
- Your name
- Current mailing address
- Last four digits of your Social Security Number
- The date of the determination you are appealing
- A brief explanation of the issue(s) and why you are appealing.
You may mail, fax, Email or personally deliver your appeal to the appeals division.
Appeals, Department of Labor
P.O. Box 488
Montpelier, Vermont 05601-0488
By e-mail to: [email protected]
By fax to: 802-828-4289
Or in person to:
The Vermont Department of Labor
5 Green Mountain Drive
Preparing for the Hearing
The appeals division will mail you a Notice of Hearing when it has processed your request for the appeal. The notice will inform you of the date, time and place of the hearing. It will include other important information. Read all that you receive carefully.
Check for any scheduling conflicts. You may request a rescheduling or postponement, but you must show a good cause, some substantial and compelling reason. The ALJ will determine whether to reschedule a hearing.
Alert the appeals division if you will need a language translator or some other disability assistance. The division will provide these things for you. You may not use your own translator.
You will be able to exercise rights during the hearing. You will have the right to representation, to present witness testimony and evidence. Preparing to exercise these rights and developing a logical, fact-based argument are the key to prevailing at the hearing.
In most cases, your former employer will receive notice of the hearing as well, especially if the issue is whether you quit without good cause or were discharged for misconduct. The employer will have the same rights as you during the hearing.
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 division as soon as possible. Attorneys have specific rules to follow.
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.
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 ALJ and the opposing party in advance of the hearing. You should have all your evidence ready days before the hearing date. As soon as you receive the Notice of Hearing, MAIL or FAX (802-828-4289) to the appeals office, any documents you want considered as evidence. If you don’t send a copy to all parties, your exhibits will NOT be entered into the record, and will NOT be considered in making the decision.
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 ALJ issue a subpoena. The subpoena will compel the witness to appear or a person to turn over the evidence you need.
You should contact the appeals division quickly if you want to request a subpoena. You should make your request in writing. The request should contain specific information on the evidence or witness you need so that the ALJ can serve the subpoena. The ALJ has discretion on whether you issue a subpoena.
If the ALJ denies your subpoena request (you may not know until the hearing date), you should attempt to introduce the evidence during the hearing so that it is on the record. If you lose your appeal, you can bring the matter up when appealing the ALJ’s decision later.
Gather all your evidence and testimony. Make sure that it all ties together logically. You will want to make a fact-based, logical argument to the ALJ during the hearing. When you make an argument, it’s best to leave out financial issues or to try to appeal to the judge’s emotions. The ALJ is only interested in the facts of the case. The judge will use those facts to make a decision.
One party will have the burden of proof at the hearing. That means they must show evidence that leads the judge to conclude that it is more likely than not that they are telling the truth. This guide on the burden of proof at unemployment appeal hearings will help you develop your argument.
At the Hearing
Hearings are held in person in front of the ALJ. Find the location of the hearing on your notice. Make sure you can arrive early. Make sure your witnesses can get there on time as well.
If you are substantially late or you miss the hearing completely, the ALJ is likely to dismiss your case and let the original determination stand. You would have to request a reopening of your case to show cause why you missed the hearing.
Your former employer may also appeal determinations. You should appear at those hearings. If you did not request the appeal, but you miss the hearing, you won’t be able to present your side of the story.
The ALJ will conduct the hearing in a similar fashion to a court trial. The procedure is less formal, however, the ALJ will expect you to behave as you would in court.
You will be sworn in and receive instructions from the ALJ. 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 ALJ will decide based on the facts presented at the hearing and an application of Vermont’s unemployment law to those facts. The ALJ will mail the decision to both parties. The ALJ may reverse the original decision, modify it, allow the original decision to stand, or send it back to the DOL for further review.
If the judge does not rule in your favor, you have another opportunity to appeal the judge’s decision by filing an appeal with the Employment Security Board in Montpelier. You will receive instructions on how to file that appeal.
Read the section on appeals in the claimant handbook.
More tips and hints on the appeals process at the Vermont DOL website.