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 3 of a 3 part series on handling UC claims and addresses best practices for appealing to the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review/Commonwealth Court, when to involve legal counsel, and mandatory electronic filings of UC quarterly reports. Part 1 can be viewed here and Part 2 can be viewed here.

Appeal to the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (UCBR)

  • It is important that you file your appeal within 15 days from the date the Referee’s Decision/Order is issued (not the date of employer’s receipt)
  • This is a simple process and can be completed by letter or by filling out a UC Appeal petition form. You can mail, fax, or e-mail the 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.
  • This is a paper appeal. There is no additional hearing. An additional hearing will only be ordered in very rare instances to take additional evidence if the initial hearing was not complete. The Board will consider the Referee’s hearing transcript and exhibits and will issue a Decision and Order.
  • The appealing party can request a copy of the hearing transcript and permission to submit a letter highlighting why the decision should be reversed or a more formal brief with legal authority in support of an appeal–but a supporting letter/brief is not required. Likewise, the non-appealing party can request a transcript and permission to submit a letter or brief in opposition to appeal (but neither is required).

Appeal to Commonwealth Court

  • You can appeal the decision of the UCBR to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. This is more complex and costly than administrative appeals to the Referee or the UCBR.
  • A petition for appeal must be filed with the Court within 30 days of the date of the Board’s Decision/Order (not from date of employer’s receipt).
  • An appeal to the Commonwealth Court is a much more formal and has detailed procedural requirements including the provision of a reproduced record and supporting/opposing briefs. Technically you can "do it yourself" but you should have an attorney involved due to substantial procedural requirements.

When to Involve Legal Counsel in UC Cases

  • Involving legal counsel at the earliest stage, when necessary, can greatly increase an employer’s chances of success and limit exposure to more significant liability in certain cases.
  • Example of when to involve counsel include:

A) complex cases involving difficult factual or legal issues (independent contractor vs. employee classification issues, separations due to failed drug test);

B) When there is the possibility of exposure to other more significant potential liabilities, such as when a claim of discrimination has been made or is anticipated in connection with the employee separation related to the UC benefit application; or

C) When the claimant has legal counsel.

Mandatory Electronic Filing of UC Quarterly Reports

Effective with the first quarter of 2014, employers are required to electronically file quarterly UC tax and wage reports through the Unemployment Compensation Management System (UCMS). Employers will not receive and may not file paper filing forms unless a waiver has been requested and granted. Failure to electronically file as required may result in assessment of a penalty (10% of quarterly contributions for the period with a minimum $25 and maximum $250 penalty amount).

If you have any questions regarding any of the information discussed in this 3-part series or need assistance with an unemployment compensation matter, please contact any member of our Labor and Employment Law Group.