The Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Process

The purpose of this article is to outline how to apply for Pennsylvania unemployment benefits, how the Department of Labor decides an applicant’s eligibility, and what to do if a decision needs to be appealed.

Applying for Unemployment Benefits

You can apply for unemployment benefits by mail, phone, or online. The easiest way to apply for benefits is by Filing an Inital Claim on the Pennsylvania Department of Labor website. You’ll be asked a few questions about your work history and the reason your employment relationship ended. Be sure to answer each question truthfully. You do not want to indicate that you are applying for benefits due to a lack of work if you quit or were terminated for a rule violation.

Department of Labor Investigation

After receiving your initial application, you may be contacted by the UC Service Center for a phone interview or asked to complete a questionnaire if the Department of Labor needs more information in order to process your claim. The UC Service Center will also contact the employer regarding the reason the employment relationship ended and confirm information about the Claimant’s rate of pay and employment dates.

Notice of Determination

After the Department of Labor conducts an investigation, a Notice of Determination will be issued. There are two separate determinations that will be issued. The first will be a financial determination, which will inform you whether you’ve earned sufficient wages for the applicable time period to qualify for unemployment benefits.

The second determination will determine whether you or eligible for UC benefits or if any section of the PA Unemployment Compensation Law disqualifies you from receiving benefits. The two most common disqualifying sections of the law are if you voluntarily quit your employment or you were terminated due to misconduct.

The employer does not determine whether to grant unemployment benefits or not. Rather, the decision is made by the Department of Labor. In the event that benefits are awarded, the employer has the right to appeal the decision. If benefits are denied, the Claimant has the right to appeal the decision.

Appealing a Notice of Determination

If you were not awarded benefits, you have the right to appeal the Notice of Determination denying benefits. Please be advised that there are only 15 days to appeal the decision. The last day to appeal the Determination will be listed in the top-right corner of the Notice of Determination, as well as at the bottom of the Determination. Once an appeal is filed, the matter will be scheduled for a referee hearing where live testimony and evidence would be gathered from both the employer and the employee. It can take approximately 4-8 weeks before your referee hearing can be scheduled depending on the referee office’s current case load.

Referee Hearing Process

The referee hearing is an administrative hearing where testimony is taken under oath and recorded. The referee’s role is to obtain testimony and evidence on the issues affecting the employee’s claim for unemployment benefits. You have the right to be represented by an attorney during the referee hearing. You also have the right to subpoena witnesses and produce documents to support your claim.

At the beginning of the hearing, the referee will inform the parties about the hearing’s procedures and will review the documents in the record. The parties have an opportunity to object to the documents submitted that are part of the claim record.

The party who has the burden of proof on the issue testifies first. If the issue deals with willful misconduct, the employer will testify first. If the issue deals with the employee voluntarily leaving, the employee will testify first. After each party testifies, the opposing party can then cross-examine the testifying party. At the conclusion of the testimony, a closing argument can be made. The referee will usually issue a decision within 7-10 days from the date of the hearing.

Appealing the Referee’s Decision

There are two opportunities to appeal the referee’s decision. The first appeal is made to the UC Board of Review. The Board of Review will receive a transcript of the hearing and will receive all the documents that were part of the claim record. The Board of Review will determine whether the referee’s findings and fact and conclusions of law are supported by the evidence submitted.

An appeal to the Board of Review can be done in letter format. An attorney can file the appeal on your behalf and can also request the Board’s permission to submit a brief to outline legal arguments affecting the case. There are only 15 days from the date of the referee’s decision to appeal to the Board of Review. The Board of Review takes approximately 75 days to issue a decision.

If the appeal is still denied following the Board of Review’s decision, a final appeal to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court is permitted. Appeals to the Commonwealth Court are decided on briefs submitted. An appeal to the Commonwealth Court must be submitted within 30 days of the Board of Review’s decision.

Retaining an Unemployment Compensation Attorney

If you have any unemployment compensation questions or seeking legal assistance with an appeal, please contact me by calling (484) 362-9286. Our law firm represents clients in unemployment cases. Our law firm is located in Bethlehem, PA, and we are happy to help clients throughout the Eastern Pennsylvania area.

How does being cleared for light duty affect my Workers’ Compensation claim?

If you have been injured during the course of employment, you are entitled to wage-loss benefits while you are unable to work due to your injury. You may be wondering what happens in the event that the employer’s doctor clears you to return to light-duty work that is within your medical restrictions.

First, if you are cleared to return to light-duty work, you can continue receiving workers’ compensation benefits until the employer notifies you that light-duty work is available. Once you receive a light-duty offer, you can choose to accept or decline the offer.

If the offer is declined because you feel that you are unable to return to work, the employer can file a petition to terminate or modify your workers’ comp benefits. The workers’ compensation judge would then decide whether your WC benefits should be terminated or modified following a hearing. However, you would be able to use your own testimony and the testimony of your own doctor to try to establish that you truly are unable to return to work in a light-duty capacity.

If, on the other hand, you accept the light-duty offer, you would then be entitled to partial-disability benefits and you would receive two-thirds of the difference in pay if you are being paid less than what you were earning prior to the injury.

If your employer’s doctor has cleared you to return to work, but you feel that you cannot physically return to work, please call me to discuss your case, (484) 362-9286. My office is located in Bethlehem, PA.

How much can I receive for lost wages in a Workers’ Compensation claim?

If you have been injured due to a work-related injury, you are entitled to a portion of your lost wages. Generally, an employee received about two-thirds of their lost wages. However, wage-loss benefits are subject to certain caps, as well as different tiers.  How much you receive also depends on the type of your disability and whether you were considered totally disabled or partially disabled.

Total Disability Wage-Loss Benefits

If you cannot work at all due to your injury, you will receive the following wage-loss benefits.

  • If you make more than $1,287.00 per week you will receive $858 per meek (the maximum amount of compensation allowable)
  • If you make between $643.51 and $1,287.00 per week ” you will receive 66.667% (two-thirds) of your average weekly wage.
  • If you make between $476.67 and $643.50 per week ” you will receive $429.00 per week.
  • If you make $476.66 per week or less you will receive 90% of your average weekly wage.

Further, if you are able to return to work, but your employer has not offered you employment within your medical restrictions, the law presumes that you remain totally disabled.

Partial Disability Wage-Loss Benefits

If you return to light duty work that pays less than what you were receiving before your injury, you can receive partial-disability benefits. You can receive two-thirds of the difference between you pre-injury rate of pay and post-injury rate of pay. You can receive partial disability wage-loss benefits for a maximum of 500 weeks (9.5 years).

Being Denied Wage-Loss Benefits

If your employer’s Pennsylvania workers’ compensation carrier denied your wage-loss benefits, see an attorney immediately. We may be able to file a Claim Petition on your behalf so you are able to receive wage-loss benefits due to your work-related injury. Please call me at (484) 362-9286 to discuss your case. My office is located in Bethlehem, PA.

How Does The Workers’ Compensation Process Work In Pennsylvania?

Every employer is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance in Pennsylvania. In the event that an employee is injured during the course of employment, the employee’s medical bills and lost wages should be covered by the employer’s policy. However, WC claims are routinely denied by insurance carriers, typically on the basis that the alleged injury is non-work related.

Reporting the Injury

As soon as you are injured while working, you should report the injury to your employer. Written notice is preferred, but oral notice suffices. You have 120 days to report the injury to your employer or you will be barred from recovery. Once the employer is notified of the injury, they should complete an Employer’s First Report of Injury form (Form LIBC-344) and submit the form to their workers’ compensation insurance carrier and the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. You have the right to receive a copy of this form.

What if the Employer Fails to Report the Injury

In many situations after an employee is injured, the employer fails to complete this form and report the injury to their insurance carrier. If this is the case, see an attorney immediately. Your attorney should contact the employer’s insurance company to determine if they will accept or deny the claim.

Insurance Carrier Must Accept or Deny Claim

As soon as the insurance company is aware of the injury, they have 21 days to accept or deny the claim. An employer can accept the claim, pay temporary wage payments for up to 90 days while the claim is investigated without accepting liability, or deny the claim.

Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim Petition if Denied

If a claim is denied, the employee has 3 years to file a Claim Petition with the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. You should seek a workers’ compensation attorney to file a Claim Petition on your behalf. Successfully winning a Claim Petition will require a series of hearings where evidence is admitted regarding your claim and the workers’ compensation judge will issue a decision concerning whether you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

If your workers’ compensation claim has been denied by your employer, please contact me for a consultation by calling (484) 362-9286. I am a workers’ compensation attorney located in Bethlehem, PA. I can work on a contingency-fee basis so there is no fee to you unless we recover money for you.

Being Denied PA UC Benefits Due to Self-Employment

Section 402(h) is the section of the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Law which states that a claimant is ineligible for unemployment benefits if they are self-employed.

What many people do not realize is that once they become self-employed, they are ineligible to collect unemployment benefits. Most people who have lost their employment and have had trouble regaining employment often try to start their own business. While this feels like the right thing to do, once you decide to take the leap to start your own business, you can no longer collect unemployment benefits. If you claim benefits while you are self-employed, you may be required to pay back any benefits you received while you were self-employed.

Another area where this body of law arises is when the claimant accepts a position with an employer and is classified as an independent contractor and earns wages on a 1099 basis rather than as a W-2 employee. In some cases, the Department of Labor will investigate a claimant’s wage claims and if the claimant receives wages on a 1099 basis, it raises a red flag and the Unemployment Compensation Service Center may issue a determination stating that a claimant is ineligible to receive benefits since they are self-employed. Please be advised that you have the right to appeal this determination by filing an appeal within 15 days.

Just because a worker is labeled an “independent contractor” by an employer doesn’t necessarily make it so, even if there is a written contract stating that the employee is considered an independent contractor. The Department of Labor will look to see whether the claimant was truly an independent contractor or if they should have been classified an employee. The Department of Labor essentially adopts the IRS 20-factor test on employee classification. All the factors used essentially come down to who has the right to control how the job is performed.

If the employer exercises a substantial degree of control over how the job is performed, the worker should be classified as an employee, which may lead to a reversal of the unemployment denial. For example, if the employer sets the workers schedule, tells the worker how to perform the job, and the employer provides tools or materials, the worker should be classified as an employee even if the employer argues that the employee is an independent contractor.

If your unemployment benefits have been denied or contested under Section 402(h) of the law due to self-employment, please call me for a consultation at (484) 362-9286. You must appeal the determination within fifteen (15) days and I would be happy to discuss representing you at your hearing. I am an attorney specializing in unemployment compensation law and primarily represent clients located near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

PA UC Eligibility Based On Poor Customer Surveys

If you’ve been terminated in Pennsylvania for receiving poor customer surveys or poor customer reviews, your unemployment benefits may be denied. If you received a denial from the PA UC Service Center, you should absolutely seek an attorney to appeal this determination. Please be advised that there are only 15 days to file an appeal from the date the denial notice was mailed.

Under Pennsylvania’s Unemployment Compensation Law, unemployment benefits can be denied generally under Section 402(e), which provides that “willful misconduct” is a basis for denying someone’s unemployment benefits. A lot of people are confused about the term willful misconduct. Willful misconduct is denied as follows: “an act of wanton or willful disregard of the employer’s interests, a deliberate violation of the employer’s rules, or a disregard of the standards of behavior which the employer has a right to expect of an employee.”

PA’s Unemployment Service Centers are routinely denying unemployment claims based on this section of the law. If a worker receives a poor customer review and they are terminated, is that willful misconduct? That is a matter of interpretation based on a facts and circumstances analysis by the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review. Generally speaking, it may be considered a disregard of the standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of an employee.

On the other hand, arguments could be made that a poor customer review should not be considered willful misconduct. Maybe the customer lashed out at an employee due to his dissatisfaction with the actual product rather than the employee’s service. Perhaps the employee always performed to the best of their ability. Was this a single isolated incident or a pattern or poor reviews? Perhaps the employee received only a very small percentage of poor reviews. Maybe the customer review was not fair and honest. All of these factors must be taken into consideration and can be the difference between receiving unemployment benefits or being denied unemployment benefits.

If you find yourself in the same type of situation, please call me for a free case evaluation at (484) 362-9286.