Well, it’s been awhile. I didn’t realize quite how long until a member of my team sent me an article about corporate blogging as a gentle reminder and another one point blank said, “You haven’t written since July 6th.” The fact that he knew the exact date was certainly telling.
So, I thought I better come back with some really useful information. Anyone who has ever attended an unemployment hearing for their employer knows it is really a stressful situation. I know, because I actually attended one when I worked for another company. I was nervous about the process and didn’t quite know what to expect. Someone from HR was with me, but I’m not sure they really knew what to expect either. Facing my former employee and telling my side of the story was nerve racking.
Well, I thought it might be helpful to pass along some advice from our very own resident expert, Doug Johnson, Director of Appellate Services here at TALX and here’s what he said:
Don’t ignore instructions on the Hearing Notice
- Note the date, time and whether the hearing is in-person or on the phone
- Remember to put the appointment on your calendar
- Familiarize yourself with specific state instructions and protocol in your state
- Follow all instructions exactly or else you may be precluded from participating in the hearing
Don’t be late
- Sometimes claimants and employers wait for the hearing officer, but the hearing officer might not wait for you.
- Yes, it’s a double standard, but you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot with the person who is deciding your case.
Don’t attend without an eye-witness
- The best person to testify at an unemployment insurance hearing is one with personal, first-hand knowledge.
- Although an HR representative may be able to testify about company policies and procedures, if he or she is limited by information or documentation provided by others, then his or her testimony might be given little weight.
Don’t forget to bring pertinent documentation
- The saying, “if it isn’t documented, then it didn’t happen” is very true in the unemployment insurance arena. Written policies, procedures, acknowledgments and warnings are among critical documents that can help you prove your case.
- Again, read the instructions on the Notice of Hearing. If you fail to comply with instructions, your documents may not be admitted into evidence.
- In telephone hearings you will probably be required to mail proposed exhibits to the hearing officer and to the claimant in advance of the hearing.
- For in-person hearings, you will probably be required to bring additional or “give-away” copies with you.
Don’t be unprepared
- A hearing officer, who conducts many hearings on a tight schedule, can become irritated or impatient if the parties are not organized and prepared.
- It’s important to collect your thoughts in advance, to know the points you’d like to make and to anticipate questions that may be asked.
- If you are fumbling through papers or are slow in providing answers to basic questions, you will not leave a good impression.
Don’t approach the process with a cavalier attitude
- Although an unemployment hearing is not a trial or a court of law, it is a “quasi-judicial” process that has definite and defined consequences for both the claimant and the employer.
- Hearing officers appreciate a serious and professional attitude on the part of the witness. Joking around or being too familiar or casual is not the best way to behave.
Don’t leave your manners at home
- Be polite and respectful of the hearing officer and the claimant. Address them formally.
- Don’t be sarcastic or argumentative.
- Don’t chew gum, say “Yep” and “Nope”
- In short, behave like your Mother taught you! You want to present yourself as a professional, confident and articulate representative of your Company.
Don’t dodge questions
- One of the most important rules to follow at a hearing is to listen to the question asked by the hearing officer, focus on that question and then answer it directly, clearly and concisely.
- Don’t “beat around the bush,” you may leave the impression of being either unprepared, evasive or untruthful.
- Short and sweet answers are best. Answer “Yes” and “No” questions with just that. If a hearing officer wants more information, he/she will ask you a follow-up question.
- If you don’t know an answer, be honest, rather than making something up.
Don’t squander opportunities
- You will be allowed to ask questions of the claimant. This is a good opportunity to bring out additional relevant information that the hearing officer has not elicited. But, here’s a word of caution: don’t ask a question if you don’t know the answer—or if there’s a possibility that you won’t like the answer.
- Think twice about asking the claimant a “Why?” question. You may get more than you bargained for.
- If given the opportunity to make a closing or summary statement, be short and sweet; hit the high points of your case; offer resolution to any discrepancies or contradictions between your position and that of the claimant, and then stop talking.
I know this was longer than a traditional blog. Bordering on more of an article really, but Doug’s a smart guy and I wish I had this advice before my case. I would have skipped that failed attempt at a joke.
If anyone out there would like to share their advice based on their experiences, we’d love to hear it.