The Law Office of Andrew M. Dansicker, LLC has been representing claimants and employers at unemployment insurance appeals hearings, as well as Circuit Court appeals, throughout Maryland for many years. We recognize that there is a need for our services in areas other than Maryland, so we are happy to report that we are now also representing claimants and employers with their unemployment insurance issues in Washington, D.C. Call us for a free consultation today and let us remove unnecessary stress from trying to do it on your own.
In Maryland, an individual who quits his or her job is typically disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits – except when they can show that they had a very good reason for leaving their job. Under Maryland law, these reasons have to constitute good cause or valid circumstances. Unfortunately, determining what constitutes good cause or valid circumstances can be challenging. We receive many calls from individuals who have quit their jobs and then filed for unemployment benefits, only to learn that they are being denied benefits. Most of the time, these individuals call us because they need help with a Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (“DLLR”) lower appeals hearing (which is held before a hearing examiner).
We inform callers that going to a lower appeals hearing on their own, without counsel, is a recipe for disaster, especially in circumstances where the individual quit their job. While we cannot guarantee success, we have often achieved positive results for our clients in such hearings. We also assist people with appeals to the DLLR Board of Appeals, where we have also been quite successful. Winning an appeal to the Board of Appeals is even more difficult than winning at the lower appeals division, and handling an appeal there without an attorney is not advisable.
This week we received a very favorable decision from the Board of Appeals in a matter where our client quit because she was physically unable to perform the duties of her job. The Board agreed with our argument and awarded our client her benefits that she had been waiting months to receive. We urge our callers to secure representation before a matter is appealed to the Board, because we have a better chance of obtaining a favorable decision at a lower appeals hearing than before the Board of Appeals. While the attorneys at The Law Office of Andrew M. Dansicker cannot promise you a successful outcome to your unemployment appeal, we have handled hundreds of appeals and we are happy to offer our honest advice and counsel.
In any given month, we represent numerous claimants at unemployment appeals hearings. What many are not aware of is that we also represent employers in such matters. In fact, we often receive inquiries from employers if we can represent them at such hearings, and the answer is yes! Our experience and knowledge in handling both claimants and employers put our clients at a distinct advantage because we are familiar with and possess the know-how of representing both sides. Should your company find that the DLLR has made the wrong decision in awarding an individual unemployment benefits, or should an employee appeal a decision that could adversely affect your tax and reporting obligations, do not wait to take action. We will gladly take the stress from you and handle the case from start to end. We vigorously pursue these matters and to date have never lost an unemployment appeals hearing where we represented the employer!
In any given month, we receive a multitude of inquiries from individuals who have been denied unemployment insurance benefits and wish to file an appeal. As a result, we handle many unemployment appeals, we have developed a very strong track record where we win the majority of our hearings, and we have established ourselves as one of the preeminent law firms in Baltimore and Maryland for unemployment appeals.
When individuals call to ask how we can help them, we urge them to make sure they are represented by counsel at the first hearing, the lower appeal, since that is each party's final guaranteed opportunity to fully tell their story. It is also the step where we have the highest success. Unfortunately, not everyone heeds our advice or finds us until after the first hearing has concluded. Appeals beyond the lower appeals hearing take months to resolve, cost more, and the higher the appeal goes the more difficult it gets. Despite the high level of difficulty, we often represent individuals with appeals to the DLLR Board of Appeals as well as with petitions for review to circuit court. Most firms will not handle these matters because by many attorneys' calculations, they are not worth their time, and appeals at the circuit court level are by many considered to be nearly impossible to win.
Our philosophy is different. Optimally, we wish everyone retained counsel for the lower appeal, but we will not turn away individuals in need simply because we have not represented them at the first hearing -- if we believe we have a chance to win in court. As a result, we are happy to report that we have recently scored a string of victories at both the DLLR board level as well as with the circuit court. These successful appeals have had profound impact on our clients, many reporting that the win was the difference between being able to pay their bills, keeping their automobiles, or even their homes.
Our firm has represented hundreds of claimants at unemployment appeals over the last several years. While it’s sometimes difficult for a claimant to raise the fee of twice their weekly benefit amount (since most have been denied benefits and remain unemployed), we believe our representation is a critical investment. We can never guarantee a successful outcome, but we have established an excellent track record. Sometimes, a claimant tells us that they will handle the hearing on their own, but will call us if they have to appeal to the board or later, circuit court. This is a bad idea. We occasionally handle such appeals, but they are very difficult, they cost more, and they take a long time to resolve. Most people don’t realize that the lower appeals hearing before a hearing examiner is the last step at which the parties have the absolute right to present evidence. It is therefore imperative that you come fully prepared; that you have an attorney with you who knows the law, knows the procedure, knows what to do and say, and knows the pitfalls to avoid. Don’t make the same mistake so many people do who call us too late – make sure we are there to help you at the lower appeal!
We frequently get questions about how to file an appeal of a denial of unemployment benefits, and questions about what we charge to handle such appeals hearings. As for filing an appeal, the most important thing is to file your appeal in a timely manner, and to have proof that you have done so. If you file your appeal by fax, make certain that you have a confirmation page showing that the fax was successfully transmitted. If you file your appeal by mail, make certain you do so by certified mail. We usually advise people to simply write, "I disagree with the decision denying my unemployment benefits, and I would like to file an appeal and have an in-person hearing." We don't suggest explaining why you think the initial decision was wrong, because you might say something that can be held against you later in the appeals hearing. Once you get your hearing notice, with the date and time and location of your hearing, call us so we can see if we can assist you.
As for fees, we got a telephone call today from a claimant who read one of our previous blogs and thought that we only charged one and one-half times the weekly benefit to handle an unemployment appeals hearing. That is now incorrect, so we need to clarify that the Maryland legislature changed the fee schedule earlier this year, so our fee is now two times the weekly benefit. Thus, if your weekly unemployment benefit payment is $340, then our fee for handling your unemployment appeals hearing will be $680. We never charge more than 2x your weekly benefit payment.
If you have any questions about the unemployment appeals process, give us a call and we will try to assist you.
After a mid-Summer lull in unemployment appeals cases, our phone has been ringing off the hook for the past several weeks. Lots of cases where claimants failed to report small amounts of monies earned during a part-time or short-term job while unemployed resulting in demands for repayment of thousands of dollars. Other cases where claimants quit jobs to take better jobs and, after being laid off from the new job, were denied unemployment. Finally, a number of claimants who simply broke rules, whether lateness, timesheets, safety, etc.
In these types of cases, we can sometimes win an appeal, but it depends on the specific circumstances. If the claimant left the first job for a better job, not just for higher pay but also for health care benefits, or for a higher title, then some hearing examiners will allow benefits. Likewise, as long as a claimant has not repeatedly broke the same rules after receiving warnings from their employer, hearing examiners will usually allow benefits. However, where claimants fail to report wages, even less than one hundred dollars, it is extremely difficult to win an appeal.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that where a claimant has filed a late appeal or failed to participate in a hearing, it is extremely difficult for us to win an appeal, and we rarely take such cases unless the claimant has an excellent excuse for filing the late appeal or not showing up for a hearing.
One of the most frequently asked questions in our office is what happens if you lose the initial unemployment appeals hearing? Or, what if you win the hearing and the employer files an appeal? The next step in the process is an appeal to the Board of Appeals -- a three judge panel based in Baltimore that reviews the decisions of the lower hearing examiners. In a nutshell, you must file a request for an appeal with the Board of Appeals, explaining why you believe that the hearing examiner's decision was incorrect. In the vast majority of cases, the Board of Appeals simply affirms the original decision after reviewing the recording of the first hearing. In rare instances, however, the Board of Appeals will schedule a hearing to review the case. When that happens, the case is reargued again in front of all three judges, although the Board may or may not allow the parties to present new evidence or testimony.
After the Board issues its decision, the losing party has the option of appealing to any Circuit Court in Maryland. This is a complicated process involving the filing of a notice of appeal, then the filing of an appellate brief and finally oral arguments before a Circuit Court judge.
If you are considering filing an appeal in the Circuit Court, we may be able to assist you, although you should be aware that because of the amount of time and work involved, our fees for such representation are fairly substantial, typically between $1,500 and $2,000.00.
As regular readers know, I handle numerous unemployment appeals on behalf of persons who have either been denied unemployment benefits on the grounds that they engaged in misconduct or gross misconduct or voluntarily resigned their job. I thought I would simply list a few of my recent cases to give you an idea of the types of issues that sometimes arise in unemployment appeals hearings:
* Claimant was disqualified for gross misconduct for allegedly being a no-call/no-show on two occasions. At the hearing, the employer failed to produce any evidence to refute the claimant's testimony that he had, in fact, called in on both days where he had not come to work in compliance with the employer's policy. The gross misconduct finding was reversed.
* Claimant was disqualified for gross misconduct for allegedly fighting with her manager and walking off the job without permission. At the hearing, the manager admitted that he instigated the fight and began cursing at the claimant, and a coworker admitted giving the claimant permission to leave the job early. The gross misconduct finding was reversed.
* Claimant was disqualified for gross misconduct for allegedly violating the company's lateness policy on three occasions. At the hearing, the claimant proved that he had only been late without permission on two occasions, one of which was a family medical emergency, and the other was only one-minute late. The gross misconduct finding was reversed.
* Claimant was disqualified for voluntary resignation where he submitted his resignation letter after the employer changed his schedule. At the hearing, the claimant proved that the employer was forcing him to work nights thereby leaving him with nobody to watch his children, as his wife's job required her to work nights. The hearing examiner found that the claimant had good cause for resigning and allowed full benefits.
* Claimant was disqualified for allegedly violating company's ethical rules. At the hearing, claimant demonstrated that she was never made aware of the ethical rule that she allegedly violated, nor was she ever warned not to engage in the underlying conduct. The gross misconduct finding was reversed.
Many people who contact me to challenge the denial of their unemployment benefits are pleasantly surprised to learn that even though they've been found to have engaged in gross misconduct because they got into an altercation with their supervisor, they may still be entitled to unemployment benefits. The reason is simple -- when a hearing examiner conducts an appeal, the examiner must determine if the employee engaged in gross misconduct, simple misconduct or no misconduct, and therefore the examiner analyzes several different factors, such as whether the employee initiated the altercation or was provoked by the supervisor, whether the employee used profanity, and if so, whether the supervisor used profanity, whether the employee made any threatening statements or yelled at the supervisor, whether the altercation occurred in view of customers, and whether the altercation was disruptive. If the answers to these questions are negative; in other words, if the employee did not start the fight, if the employee did not use any profanity or threatening language, if the altercation took place out of sight of customers and if the altercation was not disruptive, then the employee may be entitled to unemployment benefits -- even though the employee was involved in an altercation with a manager.
Sometimes people come to me and ask whether they can obtain unemployment benefits in Maryland if they voluntarily quit their job. The short answer is, it depends. If you quit for a better job, then you will not qualify for unemployment. The same is true if you quit because your spouse obtained a higher-paying job elsewhere. If the reason you quit, however, was because you were being mistreated or harassed, or if you were promised a raise that was never given, then you might qualify for unemployment. Likewise, if you quit your job because you were asked to perform an unethical or illegal act, you will likely qualify for unemployment benefits. Moreover, if you quit your job because you are unable to keep working for medical reasons or an injury, you may qualify for unemployment. Ultimately, if you are unsure whether you qualify for unemployment benefits, contact me for a short -- and free -- consultation and I will try to answer your questions.
The biggest problem that I encounter when potential clients contact me about providing legal advice relating to an unemployment appeal is that people wait too long to contact an attorney. Instead of calling an attorney, such as myself, to assist them when they are initially denied unemployment benefits, or when their employer appeals their award of unemployment benefits, they try to handle the appeal by themselves. Then they lose the appeal. Then they contact me and ask for my help. The problem is that once you have lost an unemployment appeal, it is extremely difficult to get that decision reversed. The reason is because the Unemployment Appeals Board does not usually allow claimants to present new evidence or witnesses. Thus, if you did not present the evidence at the first appeal, you are stuck with the facts that you presented. Which is not good if you lost the appeal. So, the lesson is simple -- don't wait to contact an attorney, whether me or a different attorney!
When it comes to areas of Maryland law that are fundamentally flawed, that scream out for statutory revision, that overwhelmingly favor employers, several topics always come to mind: a) overtime laws that do not allow liquidated or punitive damages, b) the complete lack of family and medical leave for employers with less than 50 employees, and c) the broad and unfair enforceability of non-compete agreements. Few Maryland employment attorneys realize, however, that Maryland's unemployment appeals laws are structurally biased in favor of employers.
The reason for this inherent favortism is simple -- Maryland law forbids attorneys from being paid more than 1.5x the weekly benefit amount that their client would receive if their client prevails at the hearing. In other words, if an unemployed client would receive the maximum payment of approximately $340 per week, the attorney is limited to charging a fee of $510. And to charge that fee, the attorney must seek approval from the Agency. To put those numbers in perspective, if an attorney spends ten hours on an unemployment case, the attorney will be paid a maximum amount of about $50 per hour -- which is precisely why most attorneys, even employment attorneys, will not take unemployment appeals cases.
This absurdly narrow restriction on attorneys' fees is completely unjustified -- for a client who remains on unemployment for the full term, it results in a fee that totals about six percent of the total award -- well below the contingency fee percentages charged by lawyers in virtually every other type of case. And the end result is that employers show up at these hearings with attorneys or unemployment specialists, while employees have to fend for themselves, often with no understanding of the evidentiary burden they must carry to prove defenses such as "good cause" for a voluntary resignation. Unfortunately, once the hearing is finished, any further appeals are not de novo, but are based on the record created in the first appeal, so the chances for reversal are between slim and none.
While I have been fortunate enough to be successful in the unemployment appeals hearings that I have handled on a pro bono basis, its plain that the system is broke and is crying out for improvements.