February 23, 2004
AUTHORITY TO DISMISS UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS
By: John Moran, Associate Analyst
You asked what authority “line employees” (i.e. claims examiners) in the Department of Labor's (DOL) Unemployment Compensation (UC) Division have to dismiss, without a hearing, claims that do not meet the minimum eligibility for UC benefits, including dismissing claims that do not meet the $500-minimum-earning threshold.
Claims examiners have some authority to dismiss claims, for example in cases where the claimant's work history does not qualify him or where the claimant has failed to prove he is making reasonable efforts to find work. But in any case where the claimant's separation from his job (meaning whether he was fired or quit, and under what circumstances) is the only issue remaining to determine eligibility, the law requires holding a fact-finding hearing to make a determination on the separation. In these cases, the examiners have no authority to dismiss without a hearing.
The question of separation is a frequent issue in disputed UC cases, therefore a large number of claims move to a fact-finding hearing. If there is no question about the nature of the separation (for example, both employer and employee agree it is due to lack of work), the claim will continue to be processed without a hearing.
A claimant must earn at least $500 with an employer before the employer is charged for all or part of the claimant's UC benefit. But reaching, or failing to reach, this earning threshold with one employer does not determine whether a claimant is eligible. The threshold only indicates whether that employer will be charged for some of the benefits if the claimant is eligible. Generally, earnings can be determined without a hearing.
EXAMINERS ABILITY TO DISMISS CLAIMS
Claims examiners have some authority to dismiss claims, but in all cases where the issue is the claimant's separation from the job, a hearing must be held.
UC regulations provide that in order to be found eligible for benefits, an examiner must find a claimant:
1. filed his claim in accordance with state law and registered for work at an employment bureau or similar agency,
2. has been making reasonable efforts to obtain work and is physically and mentally able and available to work (there are some exceptions), and
3. has been paid wages by an employer subject to the state UC law and his base-period wages equal at least 40 times his benefit (Conn. Agency Regs. § 31-235-2).
An examiner can dismiss a claimant if he determines the claim does not meet these criteria. If it does, and the issue is separation from the job then a predetermination hearing must be held (CGS § 31-241).
For more detailed information on UC law and procedure see DOL's Employer's Guide to Unemployment, on the web at:
$500 MINIMUM EARNING THRESHOLD
A claimant must earn at least $500 with an employer before the employer is charged for all or part of the claimant's UC benefit. But reaching, or failing to reach, this threshold with one employer does not determine whether a claimant is eligible. It only determines whether that employer will be charged for some of the benefits if the claimant is eligible.
The examiner could dismiss a claim that does not reach the $500 threshold with the most recent employer if the claimant's employment base period does not establish enough of a work history to qualify for UC.
But if a claimant does not reach the threshold with his last employer, it does not automatically disqualify him for UC benefits because he may have had previous employers during the work base period that would qualify him. Missing the $500 minimum with the last employer only means that employer will not be charged for the benefits.