How to be an Effective Witness at an Unemployment Compensation Hearing
The State provides a hearings procedure when an employer or claimant for benefits is dissatisfied with the initial determination made by a local office claims adjudicator. There is a first level hearing before a single examiner, a board of review, and beyond that an appeal to the courts. This guide has been designed to aid anyone in your organization who is appearing as a witness at a first level hearing or the board of review. Please feel free to reproduce this copy and make it available to each witness. The direct testimony of your witness can be crucial and strict adherence to these guidelines will strengthen your case.
WHAT TO EXPECT:
You will be attending an informal closed hearing where formal rules of evidence are not followed. All testimony will be taken under oath and reported. The hearing is open only to those persons who can give direct testimony on the separation issue. Both employer and associate are allowed representation. These representatives are allowed to cross examine the employer or employee. The state agency has the power to subpoena witnesses. Exhibits and supportive documents are allowed and should be used by the witness when they are pertinent to the separation issue. Hearsay evidence is inadmissible.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO AS A WITNESS:
1) Plan to arrive at the hearing at least 15 minutes prior to it scheduled start so that any changes in evidence or strategy may be discussed with the Corporate Cost Control representative assigned to assist you.
2) Bring with you the proper documentation needed for your testimony and be prepared to provide accurate dates and times surrounding the separation issue.
3) Be prepared to testify from your own knowledge what transpired at the time the separation took place.
4) Be positive, and keep to the specific issue. Ask yourself: "What happened that had it not happened the person would still be there".
5) Listen carefully to questions being asked and answer these questions briefly and specifically.
6) When in doubt as to the value of testimony, ask your Corporate Cost Control representative.
WHAT YOU SHOULD NOT DO AS A WITNESS:
1) Try not to be vague in your answers. When you use phrases such as: I think so, I am not sure, I may have, you will weaken your case.
2) Do not answer questions when you are unsure of your answer. No answer is better than the wrong answer.
3) Do not allow yourself to be drawn into a discussion that will weaken the specific reason for discharge. For example, if the discharge was for absenteeism, any discussion relating to attitude, performance, insubordination, etc. is totally irrelevant and will weaken your case.
4) Do not volunteer unsolicited information or recall facts the claimant is unable to remember.
5) Do not allow your personal feelings toward the claimant to reduce your effectiveness. Remember that you are appearing for your employer in an adversary position. Any outward display of friendliness, sympathy, or concern on your part may be interpreted by the examiner as a lack of conviction in your own testimony. You may be as friendly as you like outside the hearing room. Most examiners will be quick to point out that the decision is theirs to make and that your function is purely a presentation of the facts.
In the final analysis it must be concluded that appearing as a witness at an unemployment compensation hearing is pretty much what you make it. It can be an embarrassing, expensive, unpleasant learning experience of little value to your employer. It can be effective, constructive, cost reduction contribution and a credit to your employer. If you will remember just two things from this guide, you will be an effective witness. Make sure that you are the proper witness to give direct testimony and bring with you the supporting documentation and exhibits. There is only one thing at a hearing more useless than hearsay evidence and that is the person who spent valuable time and money to present it. We define this as the hidden cost of unemployment compensation.
The guidelines you have just read have been followed as standard procedure by Corporate Cost Control, and our success rate has been better than 95%. We know they will help, and we will be with you at the hearing where you can be both relaxed and confident of success.