As the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) begins moving through the backlog of unemployment appeals and through the sheer glut of unemployment claims, many claimants that were originally awarded unemployment claims are finding themselves being asked to repay that money. Often times through no fault of their own. Often times based on erroneous reasonings that are contrary to the TWC’s own established precedent. To make matters worse, since it is extremely difficult to contact a representative of the TWC over the phone, gaining an insight into the reasoning of its decision or even how to engage the appeal process is arduous task. My aim is to hopefully shed some light into the basic structure on what appeals are available in the unemployment appeal process.
In short there are approximately three different levels of review within the TWC itself in which a decision to either grant or deny someone unemployment benefits occurs. The first stage is the initial application stage in which the decision to either grant or deny benefits is undertaken by an investigator. The investigator’s job is to call the claimant and the employer to collect evidence in making their decision. This is by far the most well known stage since it is initiated with each and every application for benefits. Once the investigator has rendered their decision, a party that wishes to overturn the decision must file an appeal within 14 days of when the decision was mailed. It is imperative to note that the clock starts ticking not when the actual notice of benefits is received, but it begins when it is sent by the TWC office. This often means that claimants that were denied benefits will have less than 14 days to make the appeal.
The second level of review is initiated with an appeal of the investigator’s decision. This level of review is comprised of a hearing that is adjudicated by a hearing officers that is, for a lack of better terms, the judge, jury, and executioner in the matter. An appeal packet will be sent to both the claimant and the employer that will have a hearing date and time, all the documents associated with the case submitted to the TWC up to that point, and some general information about the process. Here, one is allowed to submit documents, retain witnesses, and retain an attorney. It is important to be as through as possible in preparation for the hearing since generally only documents that were submitted before the hearing will be considered. At the time of the hearing, both parties will be put under oath, and the hearing officer will take the testimony of all the witnesses. Importantly, if you retain an attorney they will also have an opportunity to ask the witnesses questions. After the hearing, the hearing officer will issue their formal written decision. Here, much like in the previous stage, a party may appeal this decision within 14 days after the decision is mailed, not received.
The third and last internal appeal is to the TWC’s Commissioners. It is a written appeal in which one must point out how the hearing officer’s decision does not comply with the applicable TWC precedent. It is also at this stage that the importance of submitting all relevant documents before the hearing truly shows. This is because, absent good cause, the only facts that one may rely on at this stage are documents and evidence that were presented during the hearing.
After the Commissioners have rendered their judgment there is one more step, but it involves appealing the decision to the courts. As such, that is a topic for discussion for another article.
As can be seen above, the TWC appeal process can often times require a quick turnaround, specialized knowledge, and an experienced advocate. That is why it is imperative to seek out an attorney that has the knowledge to be a zealous advocate. At Wiley Walsh, P.C., we can fight on your behalf with the legal expertise that this type of cases demand.