Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Appeal Hearing (“UI hearing”) is a serious legal event for many small- and mid-size businesses that may have far-reaching tax and employment law consequences for these businesses, especially when the hearing is about such a delicate and important issue as classification of workers as independent contractors. Yet too many business owners are completely ignorant of the rules and procedures of the UI hearings. Too often they think that it is enough to just show up and tell their story. As a consequence, these business owners often lose a case even when the facts seemed mostly favorable to the employer.
In this essay, I will list and discuss top five strategies that business owners should adopt in order to adequately prepare for their UI hearings.
1. Accept the Need to Prepare for the Hearing.
Too many business owners (and even some inexperienced attorneys) accept the wrong myth that the UI hearings are so straightforward that there is no need to prepare for them. It is very convenient for a busy business owner to believe that he needs not spend any time preparing for the hearing.
This is exactly the attitude that results in so many lost cases. Indeed the UI hearings are conducted in a manner less formal and more flexible than a district court trial. Yet, these are hearings conducted by an unemployment insurance judge, usually a lawyer with specialized knowledge in this area; there are rules and procedures that must be followed; there is a direct and cross-examination of witnesses; physical and testimonial evidence is presented; and there is a ruling by the judge that determines whether you lose or win.
If this were not enough, the UI hearing is the last opportunity for you to enter your evidence into the record of the proceedings. If you decide to appeal the unemployment insurance judge’s ruling, the Court of Appeal will almost always only consider the evidence on record for the UI hearing; you will not be able to enter new evidence into the record.
This is why your first strategy is to accept the reality of spending time, perhaps significant amount of time, on the preparation for the UI hearing.
2. Hire an Attorney.
There can be no downside to hiring a legal professional to represent you and help you properly prepare for the hearing. While you will know the facts (especially at the beginning of the representation) better than any outsider, your attorney should have the general legal knowledge about and specialized experience in the administrative appeal proceedings. Moreover, your attorney is likely to take advantage of the pre-hearing rules and procedures to better your case. Finally, even a business owner who has had experience in relevant areas of law will be no match for a lawyer’s deeper understanding of the law and procedure.
There is a notion that a cost-benefit analysis shows that an attorney just costs too much money for a business owner to spend on the unemployment insurance hearing. Usually, this analysis is wrong because it compares how much money you would spend on the hearing if you hire an attorney versus how much money you would spend on a hearing without one – the issue at stake is completely ignored in these calculations. The proper comparison would be between the importance of the issue to your business and the higher chance of winning the UI hearing with an attorney on the one side versus the costs of losing the UI hearing. Usually, if you deemed the issue important enough to file an appeal, this means that you assessed the cost of losing the UI hearing higher than the legal representation expenses necessary to properly prepare for the UI hearing.
3. Know and Be Able to State the Facts of Your Case.
There are two sides to this strategy. First, you need to know every relevant fact of your case: remember the exact dates and relevant events, construct a time-line of events, and know what the relevant documents say. Second, you should be able to state the facts of your case in court in a way that the judge understands and using the “verbiage” that clarifies your argument. For example, if the appeal is about classification of workers as independent contractors, you should use the word “contractor” and not “employee” to describe your workers. Your lawyer should educate you in the legal meaning and implications of each relevant term.
4. Submit Relevant Exhibits and Other Records into Evidence
It is almost impossible to over-estimate the importance of having good records and timely submitting them into evidence. Most cases are won on complete favorable documentation that supports a well-prepared testimony.
Your lawyer can help you identify the relevant records, present them in the most favorable manner and timely submit them into evidence. Remember that, pursuant to Minn. Rules pt. 3310.2912, the exhibits for a telephone hearing must be submitted no later than five calendar days prior to the hearing.
There is one more advantage to submitting your own records for the hearing. By the time of the hearing, there is usually already an adverse written report made by the UI auditors that supports their findings. Therefore, by entering your own exhibits into evidence (even better if it is supported by your lawyer’s written brief detailing the legal arguments), you are countering the already written evidence that supports the other side of the argument.
5. Learn the Hearing Etiquette
It is important that your behavior during the hearing leaves the impression of you as a law-abiding, responsible, and courteous human being. Knowing the hearing etiquette is crucial to creating this image. Your lawyer should be able to educate you about how to behave in front of the judge, listen to the testimony of the other side, and general rules of the court etiquette.
Obviously, these five factors described above do not constitute a conclusive list of strategies for a successful preparation and conduct of the UI hearing. There are many other important tactics that may be employed during the hearing. However, these fivw top strategies are designed to provide you with the most basic structure for how to move forward in your preparation for the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Appeal Hearing.
Sherayzen Law Office has the necessary experience and knowledge to help you prepare for and conduct the UI hearing. We will lead you every step of the way and offer you a vigorous ethical representation during the hearing.
Call NOW to discuss your case with a Minnesota unemployment insurance business lawyer!