How to Win an Appeal for Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment insurance benefits aren't guaranteed. You must apply through your state's labor department, and it will verify whether you meet the minimum eligibility requirements. If the department's review leads it to conclude that you don't meet those requirements, you'll be denied the benefits. Each state has an appeal process for those who believe they were wrongly denied. The key to winning your appeal is to follow the appeal guidelines exactly and to bring as much evidence as possible to the hearing.

Step 1

Know your rights as an unemployed person in your state. Read the eligibility guidelines for your state's unemployment insurance benefits and verify that you meet them. Read that state's unemployment handbook thoroughly.

Step 2

Complete the appeal form as soon as possible after you receive your benefits denial notice from the department of labor. Return it to the appeals board at the address listed on the form within the expiration time line. You will receive an appeal hearing notice from the appeals board with the hearing's date and location.

Step 3

Gather all evidence that supports your version of events and contradicts the reasons you were denied benefits. For example, if you were denied benefits because your former employer says that you were fired for not coming to work, you might use time cards to prove you were there. Or if you were denied for not working the minimum time at a position, you could use pay stubs to show otherwise.

Step 4

Contact any witnesses that can corroborate your version of events and ask them to appear on your behalf. Ask the appeals board to subpoena any uncooperative witnesses if your state allows it.

Step 5

Attend the hearing on the assigned date. Arrive on time, with the evidence you need to prove your eligibility for unemployment benefits. Give your testimony only when the hearing officer gives you permission to do so. Use a clear, calm voice when testifying. You will receive your appeals decision by mail within two weeks of the appeals hearing.


Some states don’t have appeal forms. Instead, you must prepare a written statement asking for an appeals hearing and send that to the appeals board.

If you feel you would be better represented by an attorney, many states allow you to hire a lawyer to represent you during the hearing. In cases where you may find it hard to express yourself clearly during a hearing, this might increase your chances of winning.

Conduct yourself professionally during the appeals hearing. If your former employer or former coworkers are there, avoid interacting with them. Do not talk when other people are testifying.


Continue to claim your weekly benefits as if you were already receiving them during the entire appeal process. You won’t receive payments while your appeal is in process, but if you don’t continue to claim the benefits you can’t receive those corresponding payments even if you win your appeal.

Each state has its own guidelines for the unemployment insurance appeals process. The best place to find state specific unemployment insurance information is that state’s department of labor (see Resources).

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