Saturday, June 20, 2015

Think You Need an Attorney for a Pennsylvania Unemployment Referee Hearing? You Are Probably Right

Philadelphia Area Lawyer Who Has Handles Hundreds of Referee Hearings for Pennsylvania Unemployment Claimants Accused of Willful Misconduct

So, you have a Referee Hearing scheduled for your claim for Unemployment benefits.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

At Pennsylvania Unemployment Hearings, the Rules of Evidence Apply 

Unemployment Hearings before a Referee are precise legal proceedings.  Your former employer has probably been to many such Hearings.  The Referee has adjudicated hundreds of such Hearings.  Your employer knows what evidence is needed in order to win such Hearings. The Referee knows the law relating to unemployment compensation intimately.

Not on Your Side and, in Many Cases, Just the Opposite
The Rules of Evidence Apply at Pennsylvania Unemployment Hearings

This is important, because the employer has the burden of proving its case.  I said above that employers know what evidence is needed to win an unemployment case; however, most employers do not know how to get disputed evidene into evidence if a proper objection is made.

Thus, the rules of evidence are important to understand when it comes to what evidence may come in, and what evidence should be excluded. Lawyers spend a full year in law school focusing on these rules, and the entirety of their careers mastering same.

That is the reason behind the old adage: "The truth in a legal proceeding is secondary to what you can prove."

The Referee will NOT act as your advocate at the Hearing if you are unrepresented (usually, I have found, the opposite applies).  The key to the rules of evidence is that a failure to assert objections results in a waiver of your right to keep out evidence that should be excluded.  Since the Referee will not protect you, and the employer has the burden of proving its case, a claimant's ability to EXCLUDE evidence that should be inadmissible is WAY MORE IMPORTANT than the claimant's ability to present evidence.

*  What  You Say at a Pennsylvania Unemployment Hearing is FAR LESS IMPORTANT Than What the Employer's Witnesses Say

Your former employer has all of the power at an Unemployment Hearing.  It has all of the documents relating to your employment.  It employs witnesses who will, in order to protect their own interests, testify against you at the Hearing.

It has an HR Department and attorneys with whom it regularly consults.  It has the experience of having been to many Unemployment Hearings.
Stopping the Employer From Introducing Evidence That Should be Inadmissible
Yet, because it has the burden of proving its case, the road to victory for an employer will often be very difficult if you have counsel representing you.  That is because application of the rules of evidence will, if properly utilized, severely limit much of the evidence the employer wishes to publish at the Hearing.

If, however, the employer is provided an unfettered, unchecked opportunity to present its case, the Hearing will be all but over before you even get a chance to speak!

First, bear in mind that the plaintiff in a legal proceeding is always permitted to go first.  Going first is the "pole position" in a legal proceeding, because primacy (people often remember what they hear first best, and are quick to make up their minds) is so very vital.

You Are Smart, and the Truth is on Your Side -
But Do You Think That Will be Enough to Defeat the Team of HR Specialists and Attorneys Plotting Against You?
Second, although we are ALL self-absorbed, it boggles an attorney's mind when a person thinks that their testimony will prevail over that of 7 witnesses, employed by a company, who present evidence that the employee did something wrong.

That just does not happen.

The key is not to meet the employer's evidence with your own but, rather, to exclude inadmissible from the employer's case, leaving it unable to meet its burden of proving you engaged in willful misconduct.

We attorneys specialize in that type of strategy!

*  You Know FAR Less About What it Takes to Win an Unemployment Hearing Than Does Your Former Employer or the Referee

Unemployment Hearings before a Referee are precise legal proceedings.  Your former employer has probably been to many such Hearings.  The Referee has adjudicated hundreds of such Hearings. Your employer knows what to say to win such Hearings. The Referee knows the law relating to unemployment compensation intimately.

Unless you have handled hundreds of unemployment hearings, and know the law inside and out, do you really believe you are going to be on a level playing field?

Trust Me - You Will Have an Uphill Battle Without Legal Representation
Unemployment benefits are crucial yet, for some reason, many people think they can just walk in and win.  They are focused on what they are going to say, rather than being focused on preparing to exclude the employer's improper evidence, and to cross-examine the employer's witnesses.

Again, these are precise legal proceedings, and you get only one bite at the apple.  If your claim for benefits is important to you, you owe it to yourself and your family to consider retaining counsel to represent your interests at an unemployment hearing.

Level the playing field, if you will.

Helping Pennsylvania's Workforce Since 1991

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