Advice for Unemployment Hearing in Michigan (MI UIA), Judge
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A General Overview
Most people that file for unemployment get their benefits. Sometimes, however, people who do qualify (Claimants) are denied their benefits. This sometimes happens because the Employer tells the UIA that the Claimant should not get benefits. Sometimes, the Employer does not stand in the way, but the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) decides that the Claimant is disqualified.
The good news is that you can protest if you are denied your benefits.
Most people are denied Unemployment because they were fired. Most people who are laid off receive their benefits as they are supposed to. But the law says that if you have been fired for less than a good reason, you should receive your Unemployment. Depending on the circumstances, you can get your benefits even if you resign, although it is a little harder.
In my experience, about 75% of those that have a hearing for their benefits are there because they were fired. I would say that about 20% involve resignations. And about 5% are about other issues.
Here are the levels of protest that you must can go through for your claim.
1. The UIA issues a Determination. This happens when one of the parties disagrees with the agencies decision on someone’s benefits. This Determination can be for the Employer or the Claimant.
2. Either the Employer or the Claimant (whoever loses) sends a written protest to the UIA. This must happen within 30 days or there will be problems.
3. The UIA issues a Re-Determination based on the facts received in the protest. Sometimes the UIA reverses the decision in the Determination. In my experience, usually they affirm the Determination.
4. Either the Employer or the Claimant protests that Re-Determination. This again must be within 30 days or you will have problems.
5. The UIA forwards the case over to the Office of Appeals. You get a chance to have a Hearing, talk to a human, and tell your side of the story.
6. Whoever loses in the hearing, has the automatic right to appeal to the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (used to be called the MESC Board of Review). Again it needs to be withing 30 days, or you will have problems. This is the last step in the Unemployment system.
7. Whoever loses before the Board of Review, can take it to Circuit Court. But at that point, it is no longer in the Unemployment system. It is now in the Judicial Court system. You can take this appeal all the way to the United States Supreme Court. There have been Michigan Unemployment claims that have gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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The Hearing stage is my area of expertise, although I have handled plenty of written arguments to the MESC Board of Review. This hearing is an Administrative Law Hearing. In most simple terms, this means that the hearing is under the authority of the Governor rather than under the Judicial Court System. The Judge for this Administrative Law Hearing is called an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
I want to give you some information about what happens at these hearings. The ALJ is not limited by the decision of the UIA. So, the ALJ can reverse the decision of the UIA. The ALJ can give a Claimant his benefits or take them away if they have been already been given.
Let’s say that you have gotten your Unemployment the whole time. Then you get a Hearing before the ALJ. Just because you have gotten your Unemployment Benefits up until your Hearing does not mean that the Judge will find that you deserve them. If the Judge decides that you do not deserve your Unemployment Benefits, the Unemployment Agency will ask you to pay back what you have received. It is the sad case that I have seen people get their unemployment all the way up to the Hearing. Then the Judge decides that the Claimant did not deserve the benefits. Then the UIA asked for the entire amount back. This amount can be in the thousands of dollars range. Of course, this would be a great hardship for anyone to face. You should have an ADVOCATE (a free service) for your hearing so this is less likely to happen. Fortunately, there are a few more steps that someone in this situation can take (appeal to the MESC Board of Review or request a Waiver of Restitution).
The reverse is also true. People have been denied their benefits by the UIA. Then when they get to the Judge, the Claimant proves why he should get the benefits. Then the Unemployment Agency sends them their benefits after the Judge’s decision is issued.
Why you need an Advocate on your side.
If you get an Advocate that works with the Michigan Advocacy Program, you do not have to pay anything for the Consultation or Hearing. Your Advocate is FREE!
The Hearing for the Unemployment Claim is not as formal as a traditional Judicial Hearing. But it does function on the same basic framework of rules of evidence and procedure. There is direct examination, cross-examination, exhibits, and even subpoenas. This can be a very stressful thing to undergo, especially if you do not have an attorney or advocate.
The good thing about having an Unemployment Advocate is that they have experience dealing with these things. They know the Administrative Law Judge, what he or she wants and expects in the hearing. The Advocate is experienced with the rules of Evidence as they are used in these hearings. He can also tell you what evidence will help you or which evidence might hurt you.
There are advocates (who are not licensed attorneys) that help people at Unemployment hearings in Michigan. Some people want to have an attorney for their hearing. That is understandable. Attorneys are highly trained and can be accomplished advocates. So, some people want to hire a traditional attorney to represent them at the Unemployment Hearing. Maybe you have an attorney that represents you in other proceedings. You trust him. You want him to help you with your Unemployment hearing too. There are two potential problems with that decision.
What you may not realize is that the Advocacy process for Unemployment Hearings in Michigan is specialized. And an attorney that does not practice in Michigan Unemployment hearings will not be as good as a non-attorney that does. Some of the best Advocates in the Advocacy Program are not attorneys, just specialists. Because they specialize in these hearings, they are better prepared for these kind of hearings than your favorite attorney that does not do them. There are plenty of attorneys in the Advocacy System, but like I said some of the best are not.
A Question of Trust.
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What to Expect from Your Hearing.
The Judge is not going to tell you his decision the same day (in most cases). He mails it out. It usually takes about a week for the letter to get to you. You, your representative, the Employer, and the Unemployment Agency all receive a copy of the decision.
Your unemployment hearing will be recorded. So you need to remember to keep you voice raised. You need to speak loudly and clearly. Avoid “uh-huh” and “uh-uh.” Do not say “yup” or “nope.” If your recording is not clear, your may have to re-do your hearing. You do not want to do this for several reasons. One reason is that it is a lot of trouble and hassle to go through a hearing once, let alone twice. Another reason is that the Advocacy Program will not pay your advocate to come back to a re-hearing.
If you have a Telephone Hearing, speaking clearly is even more important. Sometimes the phone will cut off answers or questions if there is not a pause between the two. So, make sure that you wait for the entire question to be finished before you begin speaking.
If the hearing office is too far away from you, or if you have some kind of problem attending in person, you can ask to participate by phone. It is better in my opinion to do it in person if possible because it makes communication easier. The telephone hearing is an option though.
Answer Questions Directly
You need to avoid long drawn out answers. If you give information that is not asked for, you may irritate or confuse the Judge. You do not want to do either of these things. Keep your answers as short and “to the point” as possible.
Question: “Did you go to the store?”
Wrong answer: “What happened is. .” Noone asked, “What Happened?”
Wrong answer: “They told me to go to the store.” No one asked if they told you to do it.
The right answer is “Yes” or “No.”
People often want to explain a question before they tell what the answer is. Believe me, that will not help your case. In the least, it will frustrate the Judge. At the worse, it can make him think that you are lying because you sound like you are avoiding the question.
Also, sometimes you give the other side information they can use against you. Sometimes, the information does not matter. Sometimes it ends up being misleading. The best thing to do is trust in your advocate and let him get the evidence he feels is most helpful to you.
Once, I had a woman that should have won her case. The employer did not even show up. But she lost because she refused to answer a certain question in a straight forward way. The reason was that her husband had been in jail and she did not want to say that. The fact that her husband had been incarcerated would not have affected her case if she would have said it. But because she refused to give the answer, the ALJ (Ashford) thought that she was lying. So he found against her.
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A Word on Evidence.
You can testify to what you heard and what you saw. You can testify to what the Employer or its representative told you. You and the Employer can admit to evidence any business record of the employer as long as there is no reasonable doubt to its authenticity.
You cannot testify (as a general rule) about what someone told you (unless they are a representative of the Employer.) If you want what your doctor told you to come into evidence, it is best to have your doctor testify for you. Some judges will allow your doctor’s letter to come in, but some will not. Doctor’s notes for attendance purposes will usually come in, but not if they were not written at the time in question. Some Judges will not look at a letter written by your doctor unless it was written at the time you were still employed.
If you need your doctor or any witness to testify, you can subpoena them. You can arrange for them to testify by phone or in person. If you are unsure whether they will come, but you need them, it is good to ask the Judge’s office to issue a subpoena. You will need to see that it is served (either you or hire someone else to serve it), in person or by first class mail.
A word on witnesses: I do not like to force someone to testify unless I am confident that they will tell the truth. Nothing looks worse than bringing them to court, and then they do not testify like you thought they would.
You can use recordings, audio or video, at a hearing, but you need to bring a copy in some standard format to the hearing to leave with the Judge. Also, you will need to bring a way to have it played and heard at the hearing time. The Judge, in most cases, will not help you with this.
If you want to subpoena someone, you want to have at least four business days for the court to issue and give to the party with plenty of time for proper notice.
How does the author know about Unemployment Hearings?
Andrew Grosjean is an attorney at law (licensed in CA). He lives in Michigan and has worked extensively with Michigan Unemployment Hearings since 2001. His wife, Glenda Grosjean, is also an Advocate for Unemployment (since 2004) and for Disability. They have dealt with all issues in the area and have knowledge of the ALJ's in the South-East area of Michigan. They have done arguments to the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (formally MESC Board of Review) resulting in decisions in favor of unemployed workers.
"My goal in this area is to do my best to make sure that people have their situations presented in the best possible light. I believe in justice and there is a Judge that we all must one day answer to. So, we should to do the right thing." Isaiah 56:1 "Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed."
If you are Claimant and need an Advocate for your Michigan Unemployment Hearing, you can have Andrew or Glenda Grosjean represent you for FREE. The Advocacy Program pays for the service. Just call Andrew at 313-729-9794. Or you can call Glenda at 313-729-9798.
If you are an Employer and need help with Unemployment claims, Andrew Grosjean can still help you. While he does not represent Employers through the Advocacy Program, Employers still contract with him to represent them at these hearings. He has unique experience in that he knows how Claimants usually win. He can help Employers prepare in a way that many advocates/attorneys are not able to.
He has been involved with Social Security Disability since 2009. He has successfully helped clients apply for their Social Security benefits and get them the first time they apply even though 80% are denied at the first application. He has also helped others appeal negative decisions and get their benefits that they should have received in the first place. Finally, he has helped many clients successfully present their case at the hearing stage as well.
If Andrew Grosjean takes on your Disability Case, there is no charge unless you win! It is a free consultation. Just give him a call.
Detroit Hearing Office
A word on the different Judges in South-East Michigan.
Most of the hearings these days are being held by phone.
Some Judges are more friendly than others. It is not a judge's job to be friendly or personable. It is their job to be an objective fact finder. Whether they are friendly or not does not affect their ability to be fair and impartial.
• ALJ C. Little: One of the longest serving ALJ’s in the system. He has been doing this for a very long time and has heard it all. Some describe him as “grand-fatherly.” He has a way he wants to do things. Do not argue with him. It will not help. He wants to ask most of the questions himself. Then he allows the agents of the Employer and Claimant to follow up. He can be hard with both Claimants and Employers during the hearing.
• ALJ Rattliff: Another one of the longest serving judges in the system. He is very knowledgeable. He will explain to you that he is a fair and an impartial finder of fact. He hears the case “de novo” (“from the new”) which means that he listens to the hearing from the beginning. This means that he is not limited by the decision of the Unemployment Agency.
• Other ALJ’s in Detroit: There are several other good judges in the Detroit office.
Detroit Hearing Office
Southfield Hearing Office.
Southfield Hearing Office
• ALJ L. Smith: A long serving judge in this system. She is meticulous and wants to make sure that she has all the details of the situation. She will go through a list of details even though they may not specifically impact your case. This is because sometimes they do impact a case and she just wants to cover it. She is concerned about making mistakes that might cause her to be overturned on appeal. So, she is very careful. She likes to ask most of the questions herself, although she gives the advocates the choice of beginning the questions. Her greatest irritations have to do with the quality of the recording, touching the microphone, shuffling papers, or talking to someone out of turn. During the beginning of the hearing, she wants the two parties to agree (if possible) on the terms and conditions of employment. So, she will tell you to speak up if you disagree with what the others side says about when employment started, ended, hours, shift, supervisors, etc. Be careful, however. This does not mean that you can speak up in the rest of the hearing if you disagree with the other side. After the terms and conditions are done, only speak when it is your turn.
• ALJ Douglas G. Wahl: He has been in the system for some time (since 2004). He first served as a contract judge and then a permanent one. Before working as an ALJ, he worked in the office of Appeals Interpretative Standards. I asked him what was the one thing he would want to say to people before they come to the hearing with him. His words were, "Be Prepared. Have you paperwork and witnesses ready." He said that often one side looses just because they do not have their proofs organized or with them.
• ALJ J. R. Wheatley: He has been doing these hearings since about 1999. Before that, he worked in labor law. Part of that time he was council for G.M. His pet peave is that he hates when people talk out of turn. He will say, “This is not a conversation. This is a hearing. .” He hates when people talk when it is the other side’s turn. But when this happens the most is when someone answers before the question is finished. Wait for the question to be done before you answer. And do not over talk the judge. I asked him what he would like to say to the parties before they get to the hearing. He said, "Listen to the question being asked. Confine you answer to the question. Be direct."
• ALJ Sewell: He is one of the longest serving judges in the system. He is “no non-sense” and wants things to be done quickly.
• ALJ Dahlquist: She has been doing these hearings for many years and does not like to play any games. Answer questions as directly as possible.
There are other newer ALJ's in this office.
Southfield Hearing Office
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This is an article with helpful tips for those that are facing unemployment issues in the state of Michigan. It is simply the personal opinion of myself and should not be construed as specific legal advice. If you are facing a hearing of this type, you should confer with a specialist in this area to analyze your specific situation and give you a proper opinion on how you should pursue your case. While the author has been authorized to represent Claimants through the Advocacy Program, and is a California attorney, Andrew Grosjean is not licensed to practice law in Michigan.
The opinions expressed here are that of the author. They are not authorized by or necessarily representative of the UIA, the Advocacy Program, or anyone else.
If you have any specific Unemployment questions in Michigan, feel free to call Andrew Grosjean. Any correspondence with the author does not constitute legal representation or an attorney/client relationship.
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