This post was contributed by Joseph S. Sileo, an Attorney in McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC’s Labor & Employment Practice Group in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania employers can achieve positive results and realize other important gains by wisely and effectively responding to, and when appropriate, contesting unemployment compensation claims. This post is Part 1 of a 3 part series on handling UC claims and addresses best practices for responding to the initial UC claim.

Responding to the Initial UC Claim

  • Prior to termination, think about possible claims. If applicable, couch the decision in terms of willful misconduct. If you issue a discharge letter, be sure to cite relevant policies.

Respond to all claims (both contested and uncontested).

  • A late 2013 amendment to PA’s UC Law provides that an employer’s UC reserve account will be charged for claimant overpayments as a result of an employer’s failure to respond or late response to information requests by UC authorities.
  • An Employer’s response will be considered inadequate if “the response misrepresents or omits facts that, if represented accurately or disclosed” would have been the basis for denying a claimant benefits. Other penalties can apply.
  • The days of not responding are over — Employers can no longer risk playing too fast and loose with responding to requests for information relating to UC benefit applications.
  • Be careful of “assisting” separating employees with obtaining UC benefits or promising not to contest benefits.

Respond timely.

  • 14 days to respond (from date on UC questionnaire form (not date of employer’s receipt).
  • Consequence of failure to respond or late response: an eligibility determination may be issued without consideration of employer’s information.

Be accurate and consistent.

  • Provide clear, first-hand information regarding reason for separation.
  • Inconsistencies, inaccuracies and exaggerations can come back to bite an employer in connection with other more significant matters! (Example – discrimination claims).

Appealing the Initial Determination

  • Simple process: can be by letter or a UC appeal petition form
  • Can mail, fax, or e-mail appeal letter/petition
  • Be sure to include the claimant’s name, UC claim number, last four digits of the claimant’s social security number, the date of the decision, and statement of the reasons for the appeal.
  • Submit timely appeals –15 days from the date of the decision (not the date of the employer’s receipt). The appeal is timely if post-marked by the appeal deadline date or otherwise upon receipt.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post where we will explore preparing for a referee’s hearing and what to do at the hearing!