Q: I have been notified that my former employer is appealing the award of my unemployment benefits from the OESC.
My former employer has retained 3rd party help to represent them at the hearing. I assume they are lawyers. Do I need legal representation for this hearing? Also, I live in Alabama, but it is the OESC that is handling my claim.
A: Although Unemployment Insurance appeal hearings are typically less formal than a court setting, you could be at a considerable disadvantage if your employer has representation and you do not. The third party representing your employer is not necessarily an attorney, as non-lawyers are usually allowed to be third party representatives in most states' unemployment proceedings. Those representatives may be very experienced with unemployment hearings--there are companies that do nothing else besides representing employers in unemployment hearings. The hearing officer will try to get to the correct result regardless of the procedural skills and relative sophistication of the parties. Even so, if you are not represented, then you face increased risk. You might miss opportunities to object to improperly offered evidence. Or you might spend your time on irrelevant matters that do not help you win your case.
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