In the state of Tennessee, a person can appeal a negative decision regarding unemployment compensation by filing an appeal with the Tennessee Department of Workforce and Labor Development. They should log into Jobs4TN, a government website, and select the determination they want to appeal.
They should then click File Appeal within the left navigation’s “Services for Individuals,” then “Unemployment Services.” The appeal must be filed within 15 calendar days of the date that the department mailed its denial decision.
Who Is Eligible to Appeal?
A person who lost work through no fault of their own may be eligible to appeal. For example, a person who quit or was fired for disciplinary reasons may be denied eligibility for benefits. A person who was denied unemployment benefits if they were laid off or there was not enough work available for them may have a better basis for an appeal.
What Is a Hearing?
For unemployment insurance (UI) appeals, a hearing is held before an appeals hearing officer. The officer takes testimony and considers other evidence, such as documents, from the parties and their witnesses. A hearing is a structured procedure, but is not as formal as a civil or criminal court proceeding.
The hearing officer explains the procedures to both parties and helps them to present their cases. During the hearing, each party can testify on their own behalf, have witnesses testify, and present relevant documents as evidence.
The parties can also question opposing parties and witnesses. Parties have the right to be represented by an attorney. In order to win an unemployment appeal in Tennessee, a party must present the most competent evidence to tip the scales in their favor.
What Is the Appeals Tribunal?
The Appeals Tribunal is a quasi-judicial body within the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development that schedules and makes determinations about appeal hearings. After the Appeals Tribunal receives the claimant’s request for an appeal, it schedules a hearing and mails a Notice of Hearing to the claimant and to the employer.
Attending a Hearing Date
The notice provides the time, date and location of the hearing, the issues that will be addressed, and whether the hearing officer will conduct the hearing by phone or in person. Most appeal hearings are scheduled by phone.
An in-person hearing may be scheduled at the request of either party. To request an in-person hearing, a claimant must contact the Appeals Tribunal at least 48 hours before the start of the scheduled hearing.
For telephone hearings, parties participate via conference calls. A claimant must call into the phone conference at the number and access code listed on their notice. For a phone hearing, a hearing officer may be located in another part of the state. All proceedings are recorded.
Make absolutely sure you know exactly when your hearing is. Because you do not call into the hearing within 15 minutes of the scheduled start time, the department will close access to the conference call, and you will have to request that the hearing be reopened at the discretion of the Appeals Tribunal.
Double Check the Hearing Time
The claimant should be mindful as to whether the hearing is scheduled for Central or Eastern Time.
If the claimant does not call into the hearing within 15 minutes of the scheduled start time, the department will close access to the conference call, and the claimant will have to request that the hearing be reopened at the discretion of the Appeals Tribunal.
Receiving the Appeals Tribunal Decision
After the hearing is completed, the Appeals Tribunal will mail a copy of its decision to both parties.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development does not state how long it will take to reach a decision on appeal.
If a claimant disagrees with the Appeal Tribunal’s decision, they can appeal that in writing to the Office of Administrative Review (OAR).
Check Status of Appeal
A claimant can check the status of their appeal within their Jobs4TN account.
They should check to see if a hearing has been scheduled or to learn the outcome of an appeal. They can also withdraw their appeal.
Appealing the Tribunal’s Decision
A claimant who disagrees with the Appeals Tribunal’s decision must appeal to the Office of Administrative Review within 15 calendar days of the mailing date of the Tribunal’s decision via fax or mail. The OAR does not automatically schedule a hearing.
All parties to the case have the opportunity to offer additional evidence. If the additional evidence is relevant to the issue under appeal, OAR may schedule another hearing or schedule a hearing on its own motion.
Typically, OAR reviews the evidence presented to the Appeals Tribunal without another hearing and then issues its decision and mails it to all interested parties. OAR can also remand, or send back, the case to the Appeals Tribunal for another hearing.
Filing a Petition in the Chancery Court
A claimant who does not agree with OAR’s decision can file a petition for judicial review in the Chancery Court of the county where they live. An out-of-state party can file in the Chancery Court in the county where the employer is located. A tax liability case must be filed in Davidson County.
Since it has now been more than a year since most letters were mailed, claimants can no longer appeal a denial of their PUA.
Appeal Process for Denial of PUA
PUA stands for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a benefit that the federal government provided early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, from March 2020 to July 2021. The maximum weekly benefit amount was $275, the same as the maximum benefit amount for regular Tennessee unemployment insurance benefits.
Claimants can no longer appeal a denial of their PUA because a claimant must file an appeal within 15 calendar days of the date the agency mailed its denial decision. As of January 2023, it has now been more than a year since most letters were mailed. A person who believes they have a basis to appeal should contact the Appeals Tribunal.
File a Waiver for Overpayment
A claimant is overpaid if they receive money beyond the limit of their unemployment benefits. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development will mail a Notice of Overpayment to a claimant who received more than they were entitled to.
The notice shows the amount of the overpayment and the penalties. The notice also explains why the claimant was overpaid and explains their appeal rights.
A claimant can file a waiver for UI overpayment by writing a letter that shows that their overpayment was not due to fraud, they did not receive the payment through a fault of their own, and it would be unfair for the Department to collect the overpayment.
The claimant should state the reasons that they deserve to be granted a waiver. They should put their Social Security number at the top of the letter and send it with a copy of the overpayment letter to the department.
- Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development: Appeal an Agency Decision
- Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development: Preparing for the Hearing
- Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development: Tennessee Pays Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Benefits
- Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development: Jobs4TN.gov
- Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development: Benefit Overpayments
- Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development: If Your Appeal Is Not Successful
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.