Applying for unemployment benefits is a bit of a mystery, even to those of us who do employment law. Fortunately, TWC has some pretty good information online to explain the process. In general, you get unemployment benefits if you lose a job through no fault of yours. So, if you have committed some work infraction or ignored attempts to improve your work performance, then you will not receive benefits. If an employer will claim you have performed poorly, it is important for the employer to document the alleged poor performance. Many hearing officers will not credit a claim of work infractions or poor performance if the employer cannot document these issues with contemporary written warnings of some sort. Even if the employer can document the alleged poor performance, the employer must be able to prove that the employee had knowledge of these written warnings.
But, even if the employee can pass the alleged poor performance hurdle, s/he must still have wages with TWC payments for the prior two calendar quarters. And, of course, in order to receive benefits, the employee must attest that s/he is applying for jobs every week.
Most issues I see involve requests for accommodation that were never answered; persons missing work due to illness; or issues regarding higher standards of work that were not communicated to the employee. In one case, at the hearing, it turned out that the employer did not believe they had fired the employee! Since it was not clear the employer had actually terminated the employee, the employee lost her appeal and her benefits.
So, for those of you filing for unemployment or who think you will soon be filing for unemployment benefits, be sure to:
- Make certain you have actually been terminated;
- Find out the stated reason for your termination – get the reason(s) in writing as much as possible;
- Provide evidence to TWC (and to the employer), such as doctor’s notes prior to the hearing;
- Notify TWC regarding any key witnesses – provide a phone number for the witness to TWC f(and to the employer); and
- Review the TWC website – the employee and employer info.
Note this TWC page. It is meant for employers, but much of it applies equally well to employees. It has some good info regarding do’s and don’t’s at the hearing itself.
Hearings, these days, are almost always over the phone. Most hearings do not emphasize the rules of evidence or rules of civil procedure. So, an applicant for benefits does not necessarily need a lawyer. But, if you are not sure if you need a lawyer, contact an employment lawyer to at least discuss your case before the hearing.