Three weeks ago your boss fired you when, for the second time in a year, you forgot to turn off the office computers at the end of the day. This seemed ridiculous but since you are an at-will employee, you decided to move on to bigger and better things. In the mean time, while updating your resume, you applied for unemployment.
Much to your surprise, this week, you received a Notice of Determination from EDD stating that you are ineligible for benefits and something about “misconduct” catches your eye. Apparently, your boss told EDD that you repeatedly violated some company policy and that’s why he fired you. You now have 30 days from the date this determination was mailed to file your appeal. Included with the notice is an appeal form. It seems overwhelming but you complete the form and explain that it was a simple mistake. You also attach a copy of your termination notice which states the exact reason for your rather rash termination.
After about two and a half weeks, you receive another notice from EDD. You have been assigned a hearing date 3 months out. What the notice doesn’t say is that you must continue to complete your claim forms until the hearing so you can get your benefits retroactively should you win your appeal. You request the forms and wait patiently for your hearing date.
On the day of your hearing, you arrive 20 minutes early to the appeals office identified on your hearing notice. When you walk inside, you notice a waiting room and a counter where you must check-in. The clerk asks if you want to review your claim file, which you do because your employer might have submitted some evidence against you. As you sit at the desk and review the file, you are relieved to find that it doesn’t contain anything new. Then you return the file and wait.
Right on schedule, the administrative law judge calls your name in the waiting room. You and your employer who just arrived, walk back into the hearing room. Once seated, the judge lets you know that the hearing will be recorded and puts you under oath in preparation for your testimony. The judge then reviews the evidence in the file and asks for any objections. Hearing no objections, the judge proceeds.
For approximately the next 45 minutes, the judge questions you and your employer about the final event that led to your termination. Neither you nor your employer brought any witnesses but you are both given the opportunity to cross-examine the other. At the end of the hearing, it seems pretty clear that you had no intention of leaving the computers on and that while your boss had every right to fire you, you are still entitled to unemployment benefits. The judge thanks you both for your time and advises that she will have a final decision mailed out to the parties within a week.
This doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Just remember there is no need to be nervous. All you have to do is tell the truth and the judge will do the rest. While you don’t need an attorney with you at the hearing, you may feel more comfortable having someone at your side and that’s okay too.