Unemployment

"Workers unemployed by the freeze in California" (ID # 29783) by FEMA employee Michael Raphael, 4 April 2007, photograph taken during the course of a government employee's official duties and so in the public domain, find original in FEMA photo library at http://www.photolibrary.fema.gov/photolibrary/photo_details.do?id=29783Unemployment benefits are not a privilege… but a right. Unemployment is an insurance policy like any other. The amount deducted from your paycheck is a premium you pay to protect yourself from hardship in the event you lose your job through no fault of your own. Some unscrupulous employers will dispute claims for benefits as a matter of course, even when the claimant is clearly entitled. The former employer might claim that the employee quit, was fired or is otherwise ineligible. It is no mystery why this practice abounds: the fewer employees a company is found to have laid off, the less the employer must pay into the unemployment fund. Every time an employer convinces the Department of Labor that a former employee is ineligible, they save substantial money.

If you find yourself in this position, you might be intimidated by the prospect of appearing at a hearing before a judge and representing yourself. You shouldn’t be. Department of Labor (DoL) hearings are conducted by Administrative Law Judges (ALJs). These are experienced legal professionals who have heard thousands of cases like yours, understand the incentive your employer has to dispute your right to benefits and expect only that you testify fully and truthfully as to the circumstances of your employment and/or termination. You don’t necessarily need any knowledge of law or legal procedure to prevail on your claim.

That being said, represented claimants historically fare much better than those appearing alone: about half of represented claimants overcome a denial of benefits, while the unrepresented succeed only twenty-five percent of the time. If you are uncomfortable proceeding on your own, there are numerous resources available to assist you in defending your claim to benefits. The Unemployment Action Center (UAC) is an established and well-regarded not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping claimants like you. There is no charge for their services, and you don’t even need to demonstrate an inability to pay. The advocates are typically law school students looking to gain lawyering experience. They are trained and supervised by the UAC and will be able to formulate a legal basis for the continuation or restoration of your benefits. Another option is the Volunteers of Legal Services (VOLS) Unemployment Insurance Advocacy Project. Like the UAC, VOLS trains its advocates and does not charge for services nor require that you demonstrate financial need. Moreover, since VOLS coordinates pro bono activities for lawyers and law firms, oftentimes your advocate will be a practicing attorney.

Despite the availability of these and other no- or low-cost alternatives, some claimants insist on retaining the paid services of an unemployment attorney. In making the decision whether to secure professional counsel, you should consider:

1) The amount of time you expect to remain unemployed.

a)  The longer it will take to find a job, the more important it is that you establish your right to benefits.
b)  Ask: Are you specially skilled or trained? Is the job market expanding or contracting in your line of work?

2) The amount you expect to receive.

a)  The more you anticipate receiving in benefits, the greater an interest you have in establishing your entitlement.
b)  A general rule of thumb is that your weekly benefit will usually be about half of your highest weekly salary during the year previous to filing your claim, up to a maximum of $405/week. To determine the precise amount you are eligible for visit the DoL Benefits FAQ.
c)  You can currently expect an additional FAC supplement of $25/week, regardless of your benefit amount.
d)  The maximum amount of time for which you can receive benefits is 26 weeks; however, as a result of  extensions, the limit for certain claimants has doubled, tripled or even quadrupled. It is impossible to say at this point in time whether such extensions will be made available to those just now claiming benefits. For more information see the DoL Benefits Extension Table, or to determine the limit given your particular circumstances, the DoL Benefits Calculator.

3) The complexity of the adverse determination.

a)  Certain determinations are better addressed by a legal professional.
b)  If your adverse determination amounts to an instance of “he said, she said” then you may be able to adequately represent yourself. In this case, the ALJ will take the testimony of both parties (you and your former employer) and witnesses (if any) and make a determination based on the consistency of their accounts and the credibility of the individual.
c)  This may not be the case where you were discharged with cause or voluntarily resigned and there is factual support for your employer’s claims, or where the decision rests on a matter of law that you don’t quite understand. In such situations, a lawyer may be able to identify certain laws or precedents helpful to your claim and characterize your actions in a way more favorable to you.

4) Whether your employer will be represented by an attorney.

a)  An employer who is represented by an attorney at a DoL hearing will be organized and prepared with a legal and factual basis to counter your testimony. Oftentimes the attorneys hired by employers specialize in unemployment hearings and appeals. It will be difficult to prevail unless you can prove your contentions by way of testimony or evidence. This is a factor that weighs heavily in favor of seeking legal assistance.

If these considerations lead you to believe that your claim would best be handled by experienced legal counsel, the Law Office of Thomas V. Purpi, P.C. (LOTVP) is prepared to fight for your benefits. Many lawyers and firms with unemployment practices advertise “no-fee-unless-you-win” services. Do not take this into account when choosing an attorney to handle your unemployment claim: by law, an attorney cannot collect a fee for an unemployment claim unless (1) their client prevails, and (2) their fee is approved by the DoL. In short, every unemployment lawyer is free unless you win, so there is no downside to retaining counsel. In most cases, the amount of money you will ultimately collect in benefits will far exceed the cost of our services. Here at LOTVP, we are not so much concerned with us collecting our fee as we are with you collecting your benefits. Reach out to us today and discover the comfort and security of having an experienced and attentive advocate in this time of uncertainty.

 

1)The amount of time you expect to remain unemployed.

a)The longer it will take to find a job, the more important it is that you establish your right to benefits.

b)Ask: Are you specially skilled or trained? Is the job market expanding or contracting in your line of work?

2)The amount you expect to receive.

a)The more you anticipate receiving as a in benefits, the greater an interest you have in establishing your entitlement.

b)A general rule of thumb is that your weekly benefit will usually be about half of your highest weekly salary during the year previous to filing your claim, up to a maximum of $405/week. To determine the precise amount you are eligible for visit http://www.labor.ny.gov/ui/claimantinfo/beforeyouapplyfaq.shtm#9.

c)You can currently expect an additional FAC supplement of $25/week, regardless of your benefit amount.

d)The maximum amount of time for which you can receive benefits is 26 weeks; however, as a result of federal extensions, the limit for certain claimants has doubled, tripled or even quadrupled. It is impossible to say at this point in time whether such extensions will be made available to those just now claiming benefits. For more information see http://www.labor.ny.gov/ui/claimantinfo/Breakdownofadditionalbenefits.shtm, or to determine the limit given your particular circumstances, http://www.labor.ny.gov/ui/claimantinfo/Breakdownofadditionalbenefits.shtm.

3)The complexity of the adverse determination.

a)Certain determinations are better addressed by a legal professional.

b)If your adverse determination amounts to an instance of “he said, she said” then you may be able to adequately represent yourself. In this case, the ALJ will take the testimony of both parties (you and your former employee) and witnesses (if any) and make a determination based on the consistency of their accounts and the credibility of the individual.

c)This may not be the case where you were discharged with cause or voluntarily resigned and there is factual support for your employer’s claims, or where the decision rests on a matter of law that you don’t quite understand. In such situations, a lawyer may be able to identify certain laws or precedents helpful to your claim and characterize your actions in a way more favorable to you.

4)Whether your employer will be represented by an attorney.

a)An employer who is represented by an attorney at a DoL hearing will be organized and prepared with a legal and factual basis to overcome counter your testimony. Oftentimes the attorneys hired by employers specialize in unemployment hearings and appeals. It will be difficult to prevail unless you can prove your contentions by way of testimony or evidence. This is a factor that weighs heavily in favor of seeking legal assistance.

Contact Us

Law Office of Thomas V. Purpi, P.C.
99 Madison Avenue, Fifth Floor
New York, New York 10016
(646) 770-3646
attorney@purpilaw.com