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

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.

If the Washington DC Department of Employment Services (DES) denies your claim for unemployment benefits in DC, you have the right to appeal the decision. You can appeal almost any determination the DES makes against you. Once you file your appeal, the DES’s Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) will schedule a hearing for you. The fair and impartial hearing will be before an administrative law judge (ALJ) at the OAH office.

Office of Administrative Hearings

441 Fourth Street, NW, Suite 450N

How to File Unemployment Benefit Appeals in DC

When the DES denies your claim, the state will mail you a Notice of Determination. This notice will inform you of your appeal rights and the instructions on how to file. You will have 15 calendar days from the mailing date of the notice in which to file your appeal.

You may file in writing or use the appeals form. If you submit a written appeal, you must include a copy of the determination as well as your name, correct contact information and your reason for filing the appeal. You must sign the letter.

You can mail the appeal to the OAH office, fax or email a written appeal or copy of the completed form.

Fax:(202) 442-4789

Email: [email protected]

Late Filing

If you file your appeal after the deadline, you may still have a hearing. You will have to convince an ALJ that you had “good cause” to file late. “Good cause” is usually defined by circumstances beyond your control that caused a late filing. You will have to show evidence of this before you can have a hearing on the reason for your appeal.

Preparing for the Hearing

The OAH will mail a Notice of Hearing when it processes your appeal and sets a date. The notice will give you the date, time and place of the hearing, as well as the issue to be adjudicated.

The OAH will also mail a notice to your former employer if the hearing will address a separation issue. The employer will have the right to present testimony and evidence at the hearing.

Read the notice carefully, looking for two things. First, find the date and time and check to see whether you have a scheduling conflict. You have to deal with it as soon as possible. The ALJ may hear a request to reschedule; however, you should have a compelling reason to convince the OAH you need to reschedule.

Second, find the issue of the hearing. If the issue is whether you filed a timely appeal or whether you quit without good cause, you will carry the burden of proof at the hearing. If the issue is whether you were discharged for misconduct, your employer will have the burden of proof. This knowledge will help you be better prepared to make a good argument.

You have several rights you may exercise in your hearing. You must prepare in advance to use them to their best advantage.


You have the right to have someone represent you at the hearing. You may hire an attorney, or you can ask a friend. It is not necessary to do either; many people represent themselves at these administrative hearings with no problem.

The OAH offers limited support to help you find representation if you believe you need help. Their Resource Center may refer you to an attorney who will represent you at low or no cost. You may also contact the Claimant Advocacy Program (CAP) for free legal representation at the hearing, or help preparing. Call 202-974-8150.


You have the right to have witnesses appear and testify on your behalf. Your witness should have first-hand knowledge regarding whatever issue the hearing addresses. It will be your responsibility to make sure your witnesses have all the information they need to participate in the hearing and that they arrive on time.


You have the right to present relevant documents, audio or video evidence that helps support your case. You can present business records, medical evidence and with some limitations, written statements. The ALJ may ask that some written statements be verified by the person who created it.


You may need someone to testify, but they are reluctant to get involved. You may need a document from your former employer, but they are reluctant to give them to you. You may ask the ALJ to issue a subpoena. This will compel witnesses to appear or produce evidence.

You must request a subpoena from the Clerk’s Office. The OAH will provide instructions on how to make the request.

You must provide copies of your evidence and a witness list to both the ALJ and your opposing party. You must do so in advance of the hearing date. If you do not provide copies, the ALJ may not allow you to present such evidence.

Combine your witness testimony, evidence and your own version of events to create a strong argument. You should support your argument with logic and facts to show the ALJ why your case is the strongest.

At the Hearing

Arrive early to your hearing. If you are late or you miss the hearing, the ALJ may dismiss your case if you are the person who filed the appeal. The original DES determination will stand unless you can show a good cause for missing the date.

Both parties will present sworn testimony before the ALJ. You’ll receive instructions before the hearing begins.

When it starts, the person carrying the burden of proof will go first. When that person has finished presenting their case, the other party will have a chance to ask that party questions about the testimony they presented (“cross examination”).  When the questions are finished, the remaining party will present their case, followed by another round of questions.

The ALJ may interrupt at any time to ask questions of either party or witness. The judge may ask questions to bring out important facts or clarify issues. They will remain impartial even though it may appear they are asking you many questions. While the administrative hearings are less formal than a court trial, you should maintain the same demeanor as you would in court.

The ALJ will issue a decision several days after the hearing has concluded. While you wait on the decision, continue to file weekly claims for benefits. If you disagree with the judge’s decision, you may appeal the decision to the next level of appeals. The judge’s decision will provide instructions on how to file.


What to expect at a hearing

The DC UI appeal form

The OAH Resource Center web page