Applying for Unemployment

You can apply for unemployment compensation through the Department of Labor and Industry.  You can apply by telephone, internet, or mail.  The Department has a helpful web page about how to file an initial claim.

Appeals of Decisions that Deny Benefits

If you receive a decision from unemployment that finds you ineligible for benefits, it is very important that you appeal the decision within 15 days.  Unemployment takes appeal deadlines seriously and will almost always deny your appeal if it is late.

You can appeal the decision by mail, by fax, or online.  We strongly recommend you go to the nearest CareerLink Office and have them fax the appeal – they will give you a stamped receipt of the appeal.

You can find more information about how to apply on the Department’s website.

If you do not understand the decision or you are not sure whether you need to appeal, we strongly recommend you appeal immediately instead of waiting for clarification from the Department.  It may take a long time for you to get through to an Unemployment Compensation Representative on the phone, and it is possible that person will not have your full case file in front of them.  To protect your right to benefits, always appeal

If you miss an appeal deadline and you believe you have a good reason for missing the deadline, you can still appeal.  You will then have a Referee (similar to a judge) hearing to present your reasons for the late appeal.  If the Referee finds that you had good cause for the late appeal, then the Referee will consider your eligibility.  If the Referee finds that you do not have good cause, then the Referee will dismiss the appeal as untimely.  Some Referees allow claimants to present evidence about the eligibility issue (the denial you appealed) at the hearing before deciding whether the appeal is timely.  Go to the hearing prepared to discuss both why your appeal was late and your eligibility for benefits.

Biweekly Filings

In order to receive unemployment compensation, you must file biweekly claims for benefits.  If you are a claimant who is still partially or fully unemployed while an appeal concerning your eligibility is pending, continue to file your bi-weekly claims for benefits. If the appeal is decided in your favor, only benefits for the weeks you claimed will be released for payment.

Each time you file a biweekly claim you must report all work and gross wages earned during that week, regardless of when they are paid.  Unemployment also expects you to call back and update wages if it turns out later you earned more or less than the amount you reported.  Even if you early only a small amount of money, it is very important that you report your wages. 

If you fail to report wages, unemployment may later decide that you were not eligible for benefits and issue an overpayment requiring you to pay all of the money back.

Referee Hearings

When you appeal a Notice of Determination, or if your employer appeals a Notice of Determination, you will then get scheduled for a Referee Hearing.  The Referee hearing works like a mini-trial.  Both you and your employer will have an opportunity to testify and present evidence.  You should bring all relevant documentation (ex: termination letters, doctors notes, communications with supervisors) with you to the hearing.

We strongly advise that you seek legal representation for your hearing.  You have a much higher chance of winning when you attend the hearing with a representative.  You have a right to a representative in Unemployment Compensation Hearings.  If you have a hearing scheduled and would like representation or advice for the hearing, you can request a continuance of the hearing so that you can find legal representation.  You can email or fax a request for a continuance to the Referee office (fax number and email address should be on the Notice of Hearing you received).  You can call the phone number on your Notice of Hearing with questions.  The Referee office strongly prefers that you ask for a continuance more than 48 hours in advance – however, if you want a representative it is okay to ask for a continuance at any time, even during the hearing.

Philadelphia Legal Assistance provides free representation at Referee Hearings for clients who meet our eligibility and merit guidelines.