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So here's the scenario: a worker is fired or quits for no reason and then a few weeks later you are asked to approve their application for unemployment benefits. You deny it, thinking your worries are over. Then another notice states your former employee is now contesting the denial and taking his or her case before an unemployment judge.
From an employer's standpoint, the real issue is not whether or not they deserve unemployment (you made that decision already) but whether you should handle the hearing yourself or hire counsel. The former takes more time, the latter takes more money and of course there are pros and cons to both options. The basic structure of an unemployment hearing is a simple evaluation of the reasons for denial and testimony from both sides.
The informal and fast-paced nature of an unemployment hearing lends itself to handing the hearing without an attorney on your side. The majority of your testimony will be limited to the employee's misconduct (or whatever your reasoning for the denial). These are likely things that you're already familiar with. Preparation time should be minimal.
That said, you should keep in mind that the employee is likely well prepared for the hearing that will determine whether he or she is entitled to the much-needed (but perhaps undeserved) unemployment funds.
The advantages of an attorney are fairly obvious. Not only will an employment attorney be familiar with the landscape of an unemployment hearing, it will also allow you to concentrate your efforts where they belong: on your business.
In the end, better safe than sorry is always a good approach to take in these instances, especially if the employee has the assistance of counsel. Oh, and consulting with an attorney in drafting the initial unemployment denial is a great way to limit the chances that an unemployment hearing happens in the first place.