An unemployment appeals hearing is a fairly simple and straightforward process. If you have been denied unemployment benefits, it is certainly worth appealing the denial and having that hearing. After all, it doesn’t cost anything (except if you are represented by an attorney at that hearing), and since the employer has the burden of proving that the employee is not entitled benefits in cases where the issue is whether the employee was terminated for “misconduct”, you have an advantage as generally the employer is the one who has to prove their case; not you.
When it comes to your testimony, less is definitely more. You want to stick to the most relevant facts surrounding your termination and remember at all times that the hearing officer does not care about your relationships with co-workers or any workplace drama that does not have an immediate connection to your termination. The hearing only concerns one matter: whether you are entitled to unemployment benefits. It is not a wrongful termination or discrimination or a harassment trial. The more brief and the more specific you are in your testimony the more likely you are to gain credibility in the eyes of the hearing officer and prevail at that hearing.
Do you need an attorney? I believe that meeting with an experience unemployment appeals attorney to prepare for your hearing, to make sure that you put your best foot forward during that hearing and to avoid the common mistakes that other claimants make, it will be well worth your time to do that. Most attorneys just charge their one-hour fee for this kind of preparation.
Whether your need and attorney to actually represent you at the hearing depends on your level of confidence in defending yourself during the hearing, how challenging your case is, and how likely your employer to fight it hard at the hearing and how likely they are to bring their own lawyers to the hearing.
It is well worth doing the best you can during your first appeal. Even though you are generally entitled to second-level appeal, that subsequent appeal is done in writing only and the chances of prevailing at that point after losing the initial appeal are relatively low.