Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Benefits FAQ’s
- Where are claims for Pennsylvania unemployment compensation benefits filed?
- When should an unemployment compensation claim be filed?
- What happens after a claim for Pennsylvania unemployment compensation benefits is filed?
- How many levels of appeals are there?
- Is there a hearing?
- Who will be at the unemployment compensation hearing?
- Can an employee who quits their job still get unemployment compensation benefits in Pennsylvania?
- Can an employee who is fired from their job get unemployment compensation benefits in Pennsylvania?
- Is the decision of the Unemployment Compensation Referee final?
- Do I need to hire a lawyer for my unemployment compensation hearing?
- Should my business or company hire a lawyer to defend against the Claimant’s unemployment compensation claim?
- Do I need a lawyer to attend an unemployment compensation hearing with me even if the other party is not going to show up?
- Who has the burden of proof at an unemployment compensation hearing in Pennsylvania?
- Does it matter how the appeal paper(s) and form(s) are completed?
- How are Pennsylvania unemployment benefits calculated?
- Should I continue to report my availability and ability to work to the Unemployment Compensation (UCSC) office even if I am denied benefits and am waiting for an appeal?
- If I am receiving benefits and have earnings (or I find a job), should I still continue reporting?
- If I lose any appeal, will I have to repay any of the UC benefits I received?
1. Where are claims for Pennsylvania unemployment compensation benefits filed?
Claims for unemployment compensation benefits must be filed at one of the Unemployment Compensation Service Centers located throughout Pennsylvania. These claims may be filed in person by going to one of the local unemployment compensation offices, filing over the telephone by calling toll free 1-888-313-7284 (TTY 1-888-334-4046), or by filing online at www.paclaims.state.pa.us/UCEN/Welcom.asp . Both of these systems have a Spanish language option. Return to top
2. When should an unemployment compensation claim be filed?
Employees thinking about filing a claim for unemployment compensation benefits in Pennsylvania should file as soon as possible. If the employee does not file a claim for benefits, then there will be no determination made by the Service Center. The local offices take a few weeks to process claims and, given the possible appeal process (discussed below), the faster the benefits claim is filed, the quicker benefits can be paid. Return to top
3. What happens after a claim for Pennsylvania unemployment compensation benefits is filed?
After a claim for Pennsylvania unemployment compensation benefits is properly filed, the local service center will send out paperwork to the employer and may also include a telephone interview with the employer for the employer’s response (i.e., how the separation occurred, etc.). Through this process, the Unemployment Compensation office will verify certain information and also obtain the employer’s side of the employment separation (i.e., whether it involved a termination, voluntary quit, etc.).
When the unemployment compensation office has their file completed, a service center representative will make a decision and issue what is called a Notice of Determination. The Notice of Determination will say whether benefits are approved or disapproved, a brief rationale for the decision, and will also set forth your appeal rights and the appeal deadline. Return to top
4. How many levels of appeals are there?
There are three primary levels of appeals after the Notice of Determination, which are: 1) the Referee; 2) the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, and 3) to the Commonwealth Court. Appeals beyond that, to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, are rare. Return to top
5. Is there a hearing?
The party receiving an unfavorable Notice of Determination, (i.e., the losing party) has the right to file an appeal and have the case heard before a judge, called a “Referee.” Return to top
6. Who will be at the unemployment compensation hearing?
When an unemployment compensation hearing is scheduled, after an appeal from an unfavorable Notice of Determination, both parties will have the right to show up at the hearing and present testimony about what happened. Any witness with relevant knowledge may appear and testify as and when appropriate. The Referee will also be there, conducting the hearing, and setting the background and reviewing the rules, both procedural and evidentiary, as needed, and which will be in effect during the unemployment compensation hearing. Return to top
7. Can an employee who quits their job still get unemployment compensation benefits in Pennsylvania?
A person who voluntarily quits a job can obtain benefits under certain circumstances. In order to do so, however, the person who quits has the legal burden to establish that they had what the law calls a “necessitous and compelling” reason for leaving. If the quit involves a work situation, the person who quits must generally establish that they took reasonable steps to address the problem and tried to preserve their employment before leaving. Other reasons may exist as well, such as medical reasons; however, quitting for a medical reason should generally be done only after consulting with an attorney and, at minimum, only after advising the employer that the employee is physically or mentally unable to continue working as directed by their physician. Return to top
8. Can an employee who is fired from their job get unemployment compensation benefits in Pennsylvania?
When a person is fired from a job, the employee can obtain unemployment benefits under certain circumstances. In order to do so, however, the employer has the legal burden of showing that the employee was fired for engaging in what the law calls “willful misconduct.” Willful misconduct generally consists of the violation of rules or policies which are told to the employee: 1) in writing, 2) verbally, or 3) are of the type that every worker knows about (i.e., no stealing, no fighting, must show up to work on time, etc). Even if the employer establishes that the employer violated a rule, certain exceptions, if shown, may still result in the payment of unemployment compensation benefits. For example, one exception may be that if the employer selectively enforces the rules against one employee but not against other similar workers, then unemployment benefits may be granted. Return to top
9. Is the decision of the Unemployment Compensation Referee final?
No. Either party who attends a hearing and loses (or even if a party fails to show at the hearing and loses) has the right to file an appeal. This appeal will typically not result in another hearing as the appeal is made to the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review. At this appeal, three Board members will look at the Referee’s decision and determine whether the Referee made a proper decision based on what was presented to him. The Board will generally not consider any new information or information that was not presented to the Referee for whatever reason. Return to top
10. Do I need to hire a lawyer for my unemployment compensation hearing?
Technically, no. You do not need to hire a lawyer, but you probably should. Going without representation is very unwise. Most employees and many employers are not used to attending court proceedings like this. Therefore, when they go, they will be nervous and uncertain as to a variety of things that are going on all at once. For example, the proper presentation of the case requires knowledge of the rules of evidence. Evidence rules direct what types of testimony and documents will, and will not, be allowed into the evidentiary Record created at each hearing. One must also know what the procedural rules are. Who speaks first, how does one conduct cross examination, when is it proper to make your statements and arguments? These are things an experienced attorney knows well and is, therefore, able to concentrate more on strategy items and the like. When you hire an attorney, your main concern is that you are prepared to give your testimony truthfully and accurately. The lawyer handles all of the other issues. In addition, though an unfavorable Referee’s decision can be appealed, there is generally no further time for testimony. Therefore, if you go to your hearing alone, and create a bad Record, that Record is all the Board of Review will consider on appeal. They will not consider anything you left out and, of course, they will be able to read and hear what was said that maybe should not have been said at the hearing. Return to top
11. Should my business or company hire a lawyer to defend against the Claimant’s unemployment compensation claim?
Probably. In addition to the reasons set forth in response to the question immediately above, an attorney who attends an unemployment compensation claim with his business client, can also advise the business of how it can improve policies and procedures in the future to help prevent unemployment compensation claims from arising in the first place or, so that if and when they arise, the employer is in the best position possible to defend against them. Return to top
12. Do I need a lawyer to attend an unemployment compensation hearing with me even if the other party is not going to show up?
Yes. Even if the other party does not show up at a hearing, the Referee is still required to make a full and complete record of the case. Therefore, the Referee will provide the party that does come to the hearing with an opportunity to give testimony and evidence. There are occasions where the employer or employee has shown up and the other party does not, and yet, the party who shows up still loses the case. How does that happen? It happens because the party who shows up will often say or do something that they should not have said or done. Though well-intended, they provide testimony that goes far beyond what is necessary to prevail in the case and/or say things that are simply unnecessary and not legally related to the technical issues at hand. Return to top
13. Who has the burden of proof at an unemployment compensation hearing in Pennsylvania?
Simply stated, if the employee quits his/her job, he/she has the burden of showing he/she quit for what the law calls “necessitous and compelling” reasons. On the other hand, if the employer fires or terminates the job of the worker, then the employer bears the burden of establishing that the worker engaged in what the law calls “willful misconduct.” Return to top
14. Does it matter how the appeal paper(s) and form(s) are completed?
Absolutely. What you say on your appeal form(s) and include or don’t include in your appeal can make all the difference in your case. Saying the wrong thing can put you at risk, whereas saying too much (i.e., more than is necessary), can make matters worse. A Pennsylvania unemployment compensation attorney who is familiar with the forms, procedures and deadlines will be able to walk you through the forms to insure that your appeal documents say what is necessary and no more. Return to top
15. How are Pennsylvania unemployment benefits calculated?
Benefits are calculated based on state law, and are tied into the employee’s past work history. The benefit amount and calculations are typically not an issue, but, when they are, the matter is generally a dispute between the employee and the unemployment compensation office, and usually does not involve the employer. Return to top
16. Should I continue to report my availability and ability to work to the Unemployment Compensation (UCSC) office even if I am denied benefits and am waiting for an appeal ?
Yes. You must continue to follow the instructions of the Unemployment Compensation Service Center (UCSC). Currently this requires you to continue to file your biweekly claims per their instructions. This must be done even if you are not currently receiving benefits but have filed an appeal. If you win on appeal, you will only get paid for the weeks that you made such reporting claims. Return to top
17. If I am receiving benefits and have earnings (or I find a job), should I still continue reporting?
Yes, you should still make your weekly report and should report your earnings for that week. The UC office will determine whether you are eligible for benefits for that week or not. Return to top
18. If I lose any appeal, will I have to repay any of the UC benefits I received?
Maybe. If an employee engages in fraud, repayment will likely be required. If, however, there is no fraud involved, a non-fraud overpayment may be the result. In such case, the unemployment compensation office may seek to be repaid (called “recoupment”) from any future benefits to which the employee may be entitled. Return to top