How do I call in to the hearing:
To call in, follow the instructions given on the Hearing Notice. If you use a cell phone, make sure it is fully charged and you have good reception. If you do not have access to a phone, you may arrange to use a telephone at your local ESD WorkSource office, but make sure to do this before your hearing.
Who will be at the hearing from my former employer?
Your employer may select any number of people to be present for their side. Your former boss may be there. There may be a representative from Human Resources as well. Your employer may also have an outside representative there for them – either an attorney, or some other hired representative. Try not to be intimidated if the employer sends an attorney or other representative; the judge has a responsibility to ensure that your side of the story is heard and that you get a fair hearing.
You will be sworn in:
The judge will ask everyone to affirm or swear to tell the truth.
Everyone will go over the documents to be used at the hearing:
Make sure you have all the paperwork that came from ESD or the employer, plus any documents you sent in to be used at the hearing. Everyone will go over what they have to make sure nobody is missing any documents. If you don’t have a document, let the judge know. If your former employer tries to bring in documents at this point, you have a right to object to them because you didn’t have a chance to look at them before the hearing. All you have to do is tell the judge you object to these documents being used as exhibits because they were not submitted before the hearing. Ultimately, it is up to the judge to decide whether or not to allow the documents to be used in the hearing.
Who testifies first?
Generally if you quit your job, you will testify first because you have to show that you had good cause to quit. If you were fired, your employer will go first because they have to show that you committed misconduct.
When you testify:
The judge will start by asking you questions. They may begin with easy questions about your job, like what you did, how long you worked there, and your rate of pay. The judge could also begin by immediately asking about why you quit or were fired. The judge could also begin with questions about your job search. Whatever the judge asks you, tell the truth and remember to answer the question the judge asks you. If you don’t understand the questions, just say so and the judge will try to rephrase the question.
After the judge asks you questions, your former employer or their representative can ask you questions. This may be referred to as “cross-examination.” This is the employer’s opportunity to try to make your case seem less believable, so be prepared for hard questions. Try not to be intimidated if your employer’s representative seems like they’re being mean or rude, just answer their questions the best you can.
If you think that the employer or their representative wasn’t fair in their questions and made your story sound untrue, you can ask the judge if you can clarify what you said.
When your employer testifies:
The process is generally the opposite of the above. The judge may ask them questions directly if they do not have a representative, or the representative may ask the employer questions. If you disagree with what the employer says, do not interrupt, you will have a chance to ask the employer about it later if you want to.
After the employer finishes testifying, you will have the opportunity to ask them questions or “cross-examine” them. You are not required to question your employer. You can ask the judge to just give statements in response instead, or in addition, to questioning your employer.
Cross-examination can be tricky because you may accidentally give your former employer an opportunity to make their case better. Because of this, attorneys often say “do not to ask a question in cross-examination that you do not know the answer to.” Keep this in mind as you are thinking about what to ask your former employer. Here are some common situation, and some thoughts on how to handle them:
You think (or know) that the employer or their witness is lying: People rarely admit to lying unless they are clearly “caught” so unless you have a definite way of showing that your employer is lying, it is probably best to leave the lie alone and focus on persuading the judge that your version of what happened is correct. The judge will determine who appears to be telling the truth.
You think you know something that the employer is hiding, but do not have proof: The employer or their witness may not know what you are talking about, or even worse, you may be incorrect in your suspicion and the employer may answer in a way that makes your case worse.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t ask your employer any questions, but just remember that if you ask a question, it may open the door for the employer to make their case better. You may find that it is better to reinforce your side of the story in your closing argument.
The judge will also ask you about your job search:
To receive benefits you must be available for work, actively seeking work, and able to work. The ALJ will ask you questions to determine if you meet the requirements. Some of these questions may be confusing if you don’t know what the judge is trying to find out:
The judge may ask if you have reliable transportation: You do not have to have a car, but you need to have a way to get to work if you are offered a job. This could include taking the bus, biking, walking, or finding some other way to get to work.
The judge may ask if you have to take care of children or family members: The judge is trying to figure out if your family commitments will prevent you from taking a job. If you can find child care or alternate caretakers for your family members, tell that to the judge.
The judge may ask if you are attending school or other training: If you are, you may need to be willing to quit school if you are offered a job.
The judge may ask if you have any health problems that would keep you from working: If you cannot work at all, that may prevent you from getting benefits.
The judge may ask if you were out of town or sick during the time you filed for benefits: If you were, you may not be able to get benefits for the weeks you were not available.
The judge may ask about where you looked for work: Have your job search log with you so you can respond if the judge asks which places you applied for jobs.
You will have the opportunity to make a closing statement:
This is where you summarize all the facts that make your case and emphasize to the judge that you are eligible for benefits. If your former employer made your case look worse or mischaracterized the situation, reinforce your side of the story. Make your statement only as long as it needs to be and try to be as clear as possible with your argument.
During the hearing - how to object to inappropriate evidence:
Administrative hearings are much less formal than court hearings, but you can still object to certain things that that your employer or their witnesses say. While the standards for appropriate evidence sometimes have confusing legalistic names, they come from basic common sense.
Relevance: All evidence and testimony offered must have some relation to what the hearing is about. For example, if you quit your job because your hours were cut in half and your employer starts to bring up the fact that you were late a couple times last month, that probably has nothing to do with why you quit, and is irrelevant. You could say to the judge “Your Honor I don’t see how this relates to why I quit,” or you could just say that you object because of relevance.
Hearsay: Hearsay is testimony that is second hand. For example, if you were fired for supposedly stealing from the cash register and your employer brings a witness that can only testify that someone else told her that you stole, that is hearsay. The judge might find that your employer’s story is not reliable because they did not bring the person accusing you to the hearing. You can object to hearsay, but be aware that despite a preference for first-hand knowledge, judges will still allow hearsay to be heard. However, the judge cannot make a decision based solely on hearsay.
Asked and Answered: This just means that you’ve already been asked that question and provided an answer. Sometimes an employer will continue to ask you the same question over and over just to make a point they think will help them. You can just say that you’ve been asked that question and answered it already.
Other things that might happen at the hearing & general hearing tips:
The employer or their representative may say something that makes you angry or upset: It is very important for you to remain calm even if what is said is a lie or an insult. If someone is going to lose his or her temper, let it be your former employer. The judge will try to keep the hearing fair and calm.
Always be respectful to everyone at the hearing: Do not interrupt the judge, your former employer or the employer representative, or any witnesses. Be respectful of the judge. You can call the judge “Your Honor.”
Try to be clear and concise: The judges are generally on a tight schedule and anything you can do to keep the hearing running smoothly will be appreciated. Do not be surprised if a judge interrupts you or another participant if the testimony is rambling or unfocused. But if you feel like you are not being allowed to testify about something important, respectfully ask the judge if you can do so.
If you do not understand what is going on or what you are supposed to do next, ask the judge: If you’re feeling lost or confused, politely ask the judge for an explanation.