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Mastering Unemployment Hearings: Essential Strategies and Best Practices

By June 3, 2024June 6th, 2024No Comments
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Navigating unemployment hearings can be daunting, especially if you are unfamiliar with the facts and processes associated with these proceedings.

In this article, we delve into the essential aspects of unemployment hearings, equipping you and your team with the knowledge and strategies necessary to effectively navigate these proceedings and safeguard your interests.

From documentation best practices to witness selection and hearing preparation, we are here to support you and make sure you have the knowledge and subject matter expertise to guide the process with confidence.

Documentation Best Practices

The burden of proof in an unemployment hearing lies with the party initiating the claimant’s separation. In a discharge case, the employer speaks first; in a quit case, the claimant does. Regardless, comprehensive documentation is key.

Employment Timeline

Be sure to have available all-important dates of employment, including first day worked, last day worked, and any relevant warning and incident dates (if applicable). Precise dates provide clarity and context, establishing a clear narrative that can reinforce your position.

Disciplinary History

Prior warnings and their relevance to the final incident can make or break your case. By presenting a comprehensive disciplinary history, you can demonstrate a pattern of behavior or performance issues that led to the separation, thereby strengthening your case. Clear documentation of disciplinary actions, including written warnings, performance improvement plans, and corrective measures taken, establishes a narrative that highlights the employee’s accountability and your adherence to fair and consistent policies.

Organization Policy

Presenting copies of violated policies along with signed acknowledgments from the employee reinforces your adherence to established guidelines and standards. Demonstrating that the employee was aware of and agreed to abide by organization policies not only strengthens your case but also mitigates the risk of disputes regarding the employee’s awareness or understanding of expectations.

Ancillary Documentation

Depending on the reason for separation, additional ancillary documentation may help provide additional strength to your case. Resignation letters, exit interviews, timesheets, pay stubs, and other relevant documents offer further context and evidence.

Regardless of the type of documentation you provide, ensure you are sensitive to the individuals that are referenced. This is particularly important for witness statements. All documentation becomes part of the record and may need to be redacted to protect involved parties.


Although documentation plays an important role in the unemployment process, at the hearing level, first-hand witnesses are the key to providing context, clarity, and credibility to the events in question, and can be a determining factor in the outcome of the case.

First-Hand Testimony

It is always recommended to select first-hand witnesses to attend hearings. These witnesses have personal involvement in the termination process and possess direct knowledge of the circumstances.

For instance, the supervisor who was informed by the employee about their resignation and reasons behind it or the manager who witnessed the reason for a termination or final written warning would be the ideal first-hand witness.


In administrative hearings, hearsay testimony is allowed. Hearsay refers to someone testifying about what someone else said, rather than what they themselves saw, heard, or experienced firsthand. It can also include written statements from other employees, customers, or clients. In many instances, however, unemployment disqualifications cannot be based on hearsay alone. Therefore, it is important to either back up hearsay with additional support or – preferably – focus on first-hand testimony.

Always keep in mind that the hearing officer prefers the employer witness to have first-hand knowledge. Their testimony carries more weight than hearsay, which is why neither verbal nor written hearsay is as strong as first-hand testimony.

In Conclusion

By keeping these concepts in mind, you can effectively select witnesses and present compelling evidence to support your position in unemployment hearings. This helps strengthen your case and increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome in the unemployment hearings.

Hearing Presentation Tips

It is easy to get overwhelmed by the unemployment hearing process. With knowledge of the process, along with some helpful tips, you can set yourself up for success.

  • Be on time.
  • Keep testimony relevant to the final incident.
  • Use open-ended statements.
  • Avoid extreme statements.
  • Stick to the facts. Don’t draw conclusions.
  • When in doubt, ask for clarification.

Hearing Preparation

Our dedicated team of unemployment hearings analysts is available to help you make the most out of each and every unemployment hearing! Through thorough hearing preparation and consultation on individual cases, our team ensures your witnesses understand the hearing process and receive answers to any questions they might have about what to expect and how to prepare.

We provide personalized guidance tailored to the specifics of your case, helping to alleviate any uncertainty and ensuring you’re fully equipped to present your case confidently and effectively. With our support, you can maneuver the complexities of unemployment hearings with ease, knowing you have a knowledgeable team by your side every step of the way.

About Us

For more than 40 years, 501(c) Services has been a leader in offering solutions for unemployment costs, claims management, and HR support to nonprofit organizations. Two of our most popular programs are the 501(c) Agencies Trust and 501(c) HR Services. We understand the importance of compliance and accuracy and are committed to providing our clients with customized plans that fit their needs.

Contact us today to see if your organization could benefit from our services.

Are you already working with us and need assistance with an HR or unemployment issue? Contact us here.

The information contained in this article is not a substitute for legal advice or counsel and has been pulled from multiple sources. Some information was provided by our friend, Darby Gibson, Client Marketing & Insights Specialist, at Thomas & Company.

(Images by Billion Photos and Drazen Zigic)

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