Contested unemployment compensation proceedings are handled through telephone conferences involving an unemployment law judge (ULJ) of the Department of Employment & Economic Development (DEED) and the parties and their witnesses.
In 2009, there were more than 34,000 such cases. As two recent cases demonstrate, problems can arise when parties or witnesses are not available to receive telephone calls for these hearings.
In Mohamed v. Industrial Staffing, 2010 WL 607664 (Minn. App. 2010) (unpublished), the claimant did not answer two telephone calls made to the alternative numbers he gave to DEED, and his case was dismissed. He appealed, claiming that the case should be reopened, but the appellate court refused his request, noting that he failed to reasonably make himself available for the proceeding.
But, in a concurrent decision, the appellate court in Paquette v. Fastenal Co., 2010 WL 606700 (Minn. App. 2010) (unpublished), remanded a denial by DEED of unemployment compensation benefits on grounds that two employees who worked for the company, who may have offered favorable testimony for the claimant, may have been dissuaded by management from being available for telephone calls. Because there was contradictory evidence whether management deterred them from participating, the appellate court ordered reconsideration of the case.
Claimants should be sure to be available for telephone calls from DEED for the proceedings and both parties should be certain that witnesses are available to participate when called. A claimant’s unavailability can be fatal to a claim, while the unavailability of witnesses can also result in a ruling being overturned.
Marshall H. Tanick
Mansfield, Tanick & Cohen, PA