Ohio Unemployment
Appeal Steps

If you find you have been denied unemployment compensation benefits that you have a right to, that your employer has paid for, then it is critical for you to learn about the appeal levels and the process at each level.

Outline of the Appeal Process

  1. Application for Benefits
  2. Fact-Finding
  3. Initial Determination
  4. Written Appeal to ODJFS
  5. Redetermination
  6. Appeal for Hearing
  7. Hearing with Unemployment Compensation Review Commission (UCRC)
  8. Decision
  9. Request for Review
  10. Appeal to Court

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Benefits ▼

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

A. Mass Layoff Number: If you are out of work due to COVID-19, you should use Mass Layoff Number #2000180 when applying for benefits. Instructions on how to use the Mass Layoff Number can be found here and an ODJFS application guide can be found here.

B. Viewing Correspondence and Determinations:  Ohio's online unemployment system continues to have problems due to the high number of new claims. People are receiving notices they they are not able to open until about seven days later. Some of these notices, such as Notices of Required Action, expire before they can ever be opened.

Determination Letters will not expire and provide for 21 days to appeal. Determinations explain whether a person is approved or denied and give reasons why. It is frustrating to see that a Determination was issued denying benefits and to be unable to open the Determination Letter to see why; however, it is best to wait until the Determination Letter can be viewed before appealing so the full reasons for the Determination can be evaluated and responded to. Deadlines should never be missed, but there should be ample opportunity to appeal after the Determination Letter can be viewed. Ohio has provided this FAQ that discusses this an other COVID-19 unemployment issues.

C. Ohio Executive Order Expanding Unemployment Benefits: The Ohio Governor issued an executive order making it easier for people affected by coronavirus to obtain unemployment benefits and there may be further changes to come. Updates regarding these changes can be found here: http://jfs.ohio.gov/ouio/CoronavirusAndUI.stm Here is what the Executive Order says for claimants:

  • Unemployed workers will include individuals requested by a medical professional, local health authority, or employer to be isolated or quarantined as a consequence of COVID-19 even if not actually diagnosed with COVID-19; and
  • Individuals totally or partially unemployed, or who are participating in the SharedWork Ohio Program will not be required to serve a waiting period before receiving unemployment insurance or SharedWork benefits; and
  • Waiver of work search requirements shall include those individuals requested by a medical professional, local health authority or employer to be isolated or quarantined as a consequence of COVID-19 even if not actually diagnosed with COV-19

D. Should you apply through the regular unemployment system or the PUA system?: This can be one of the most confusing questions. The PUA system is primarily for those people who did not meet the monetary requirements for regular unemployment (e.g., self employed, independent contractors, part-time workers), though it is also for people who meet one of the reasons for expanded benefits described below. The regular unemployment system is primarily for those who do meet the monetary requirements and are unemployed through no fault of their own (e.g., laid off, fired, resigned with just cause).

Many times people should qualify through the PUA system; however, because the system shows they might be monetarily eligible for regular unemployment it will kick them out of the system without providing any appeal rights as the law requires it to do. Such people may need to apply through the regular system first, receive a denial, and have the appeal deadlines expire before they can go back to the PUA system to apply.

Here is an info-graphic from ODJFS directing people to which system they should apply through.

E. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) / Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC): The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act expanded unemployment benefits. Claimants can now apply for PUA benefits here. A step-by-step guide for apply for PUA benefits can be found here. Here is a link that describes some of the PUA benefits and their status. Here is a link to guidance from the Department of Labor. The changes include:

  • Claimants can file for PUA/PEUC benefits while they have a pending application open for regular unemployment benefits. In fact, Ohio JFS recommends it.
  • Up to an additional $600 per week in benefits, which will be applied retroactively to March 29, 2020 and last through July 25, 2020. If you are receiving unemployment, you do not need need to apply separately for PUA benefits to receive this additional $600.00.
  • Extending benefits for an additional 13 weeks - Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). Ohio provides 26 weeks, so the additional 13 weeks will provide 39 weeks of benefits. This extension lasts through December 31, 2020.
  • Expanding benefits to include part-time employees, freelancers, independent contractors, gig workers, the self-employed, and others who also do not otherwise qualify for regular unemployment benefits AND fit into one of the following categories:
  • Those unable to reach their place of employment because of quarantine
  • Those unable to reach their place of employment because they have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine
  • Those whose place of employment is closed because of COVID-19
  • Those who were scheduled to start work but who no longer have a job because of COVID-19
  • Those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms and are seeking medical diagnosis
  • Those with a household member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Those providing care to a family or household member with COVID-19
  • Those with primary caregiving responsibilities for children or others who are unable to attend school or another facility due to COVID-19
  • Those who have become the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19

F. Contacting Unemployment:  Ohio Unemployment continues to be difficult, or near impossible, to reach by telephone.

For the regular unemployment system, this link provides telephone numbers to the various processing centers, which may or may not be easier to get through to than the general number. The fax number is 614-466-7449, but be sure to save a fax confirmation whenever sending anything by fax. They can also be emailed at JFS.UI_Respond@jfs.ohio.gov, though we hear they have not been responding to emails.

For the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance system, the call center number is (833) 604-0774 and the email is Progressive-PUA@jfs.ohio.gov

G. COVID-19 Weekly Claims: This is a guide to filing COVID-19 related weekly claims: https://bit.ly/2QXeRMV

H. COVID-19 Stimulus Checks: These do NOT need to be reported as earnings when filing weekly claims.

I. Monetarily Ineligible Determinations: If you received a Determination that you are monetarily ineligible after a COVID-19 layoff, you may still qualify for benefits.

  • If you applied before April 5, 2020, your base period will be from 1/1/2019 to 12/31/2019. You will be required to have 20 weeks of earnings with average earnings of $269 or more per week during this base period. If you met this requirement but were denied, contact us to discuss appeal rights. If you did not meet this requirement, please see below.
  • If you applied after April 5, 2020 your base period will be from 4/1/2019 to 3/31/2020. Therefore, if you were denied because you did not meet the minimum wage requirements from an application filed before April 5, 2020, but would meet the wage requirements from 4/1/2019 to 3/31/2020, you may want to file a new application today.
  • If you did not have 20 weeks of earnings with an average gross income of $269 or more per week during either 1/1/2019 to 12/31/2019 or 4/1/2019 to 3/31/2020, you will not qualify under the normal unemployment system. You might qualify under the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. That is a separate program through Ohio Unemployment and requires a separate application. You can apply for PUA Benefits here.

J. Families First Coronavirus Response Act - Employee Paid Leave Rights: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act created mandatory paid leave for certain employees of covered employers. These employees may qualify for these leaves if they have been quarantined, need to care for an individual who is quarantined, or need to care for a child whose school or day care is closed for reasons related to COVID-19. Further explanation of these leaves and who are covered employers can be found here. Individuals qualifying for these leaves may receive full pay or 2/3 pay.

Ohio Unemployment will often deny a claimant benefits if they are eligible for leave from their employer. As a result, individuals eligible for these leaves should apply for them and, if denied, save documentation of that denial if they also apply for unemployment.

K. PUA Overpayments: Nearly one in five people who applied for PUA benefits have received notices that they were overpaid. ODJFS claims that it used reported income without verifying to get payments out quickly, but are now verifying income and adjusting payments. As a result, in the midst of the pandemic many people are seeing their benefits stopped and receiving notices that they need to pay back thousands of dollars. An appeal can be filed for these overpayment notices, though it should focus on the benefit amount that was determined (i.e., is the new benefit amount correct, did it consider all income?) rather than arguing that the overpayment should be waived because it is ODJFS's error.

L. When Your Employer Asks You to Return to Work But it is Not Safe or You Are at High Risk: On June 16, 2020, Governor Dewine signed Executive Order 2020-24D, which makes it easier for people to turn down offers to return to work due to being at high risk, and yet still collect unemployment. Here is the pertinent text of that order:

When an employee is called back to work in the same position as prior to the Director of Health's special orders, there is a presumption that the position is considered "suitable work" under the Ohio Unemployment Insurance program. Individuals who refuse to return to work without good cause in order to obtain additional unemployment benefits may have their eligibility negatively impacted. During the period of the COVID-19 state of emergency, the following constitutes "good cause" for refusing suitable work:
  1. A medical professional' s recommendation that an individual not return to work because he/she falls into a category that is considered "high risk" for contracting COVID-19 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the employer cannot offer teleworking options; or
  2. The employee is sixty-five years of age or older; or
  3. Tangible evidence of a health and safety violation by the employer that does not allow the employee to practice social distancing, hygiene, and wearing protective equipment; or
  4. Potential exposure· to COVID-19 and subject to a prescribed quarantine period by a medical or health professional; or
  5. Staying home to care for a family member who is suffering from COVID-19 or subject to a prescribed quarantine period by a medical or health professional.

CDC information about high risk categories can be found here.

M. Failing to Follow Safety Requirements? It is true that an employee can have just cause to resign if their employer failed  to  provide  proper safety  measures  required by law. You can find Ohio's COVID-19 related requirements for employers who are reopening here. #3 of Executive Order 2020-24D may also be helpful, as it allows a person to turn down a job there is, "Tangible evidence of a health and safety violation by the employer that does not allow the employee to practice social distancing, hygiene, and wearing protective equipment."

If an employee has safety concerns, they should communicate those concerns to their employer, describe how the employer is not complying with safety measures required by law, take the concerns up the chain of command if a resolution is not obtained, and give the employer an adequate opportunity to resolve the issues. Whenever possible, these communications should be done in writing and saved to be able to show Unemployment.That writing can be emails, letters or even text messages with screenshots of the messages saved. It may also help to also report the concerns to the local health department.

N. Extended Benefits? Up to 20 weeks of Extended Benefits (EB) were available to eligible Ohioans who exhaust both the maximum 26 weeks of regular unemployment benefits and 13 weeks of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) through December 26, 2020. However, on November 24 Ohio provided notice that these 20 weeks of Extended Benefits would end on December 12, 2020.

O. Do You Need an Attorney? We provide free telephone consultations to review this very question. Most times we are able to help and answer questions without the need of hiring an attorney. It is very important to contact an attorney when a case involves appeals. The first appeal step is done in writing and important for getting benefits started quickly. We cannot help with that first appeal step if we are contacted after it has already been filed, so contact us before you file the appeal. The second appeal step involves a telephone hearing is is usually both the best and last real opportunity to obtain a win. There is very little you or an attorney can do after the hearing, so be sure to contact an attorney before the hearing. We will talk about your case, offer free guidance, and if appropriate talk about legal representation with a contingency fee where we get paid only when we obtain a win for you.

Appeal from an Initial Determination

When you file for unemployment benefits, your employer will be asked to provide information, after which ODJFS will make a determination regarding your eligibility for benefits.  If you find that the initial determination denied your unemployment compensation benefits, you may submit a written appeal, which is frequently referred to as an unemployment appeal letter.  This appeal must be submitted within 21 calendar days of the date of the determination, and it may be submitted by mail or fax to the processing center identified on the determination, or it may be submitted through the online system.

If you choose to have the Ohio Unemployment Lawyers of Smith's Law Offices assist you, at this stage we would notify ODJFS that we represent you, request a copy of your file, which will include more information than is seen through ODJFS’ online system.  The file will contain documents, questionnaire responses, and other information provided by your former employer.  We will then craft an appeal that explains why the law provides that you have a right to unemployment compensation benefits.

Once this appeal is submitted, ODJFS has 21 days to either issue a redetermination or refer the appeal to the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission.  In almost all cases, ODJFS will issue a redetermination that will either maintain its original determination or change it.

Appeal from a Redetermination

If ODJFS’ Redetermination is not in your favor, you have 21 days from the date the redetermination is issued to file an appeal to the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission (UCRC).  Once this appeal is filed, you will first receive confirmation that the appeal has been filed, and about a week later you will receive a notice with the date and time of the hearing. This hearing is most often held by telephone, though it may be held in person if needed.

This unemployment appeal hearing is the most important stage of the appeal process.  Prior to the hearing, Smith's Law Offices will request your ODJFS file, subpoena any documents that may support your position, secure any important witnesses, and discuss the hearing process with you so you will be comfortable with it.

During this hearing, a Hearing Officer will begin by asking witnesses questions.  Any representatives will have the opportunity to follow-up with further questions.  If you choose to have the Ohio Unemployment Attorneys at Smith's Law Offices represent you, we would cross examine all of the employer witnesses, follow up with questions for you to ensure the Hearing Officer hears and understands why you are entitled to benefits, and we will provide a closing statement to the Hearing Officer, setting forth the law and facts that support your right to unemployment compensation.

Appeal from a Hearing Decision

If the Hearing Officer’s decision is not in your favor, a Request for Review of that decision may be submitted to the Ohio Unemployment Compensation Review Commission (UCRC).  The UCRC may deny the request for a review or at may grant it, in which case it may rely on what is already in the record or hold a further hearing.  Requests to the UCRC are rarely granted and are uphill battles.  This is why it is important to contact the Ohio Unemployment Lawyers at Smith's Law Offices before the Unemployment Appeal Hearing, when there are still many strategies available to obtain the benefits you have a right to.

Appeal to Court

There may additionally be appeals that can be made to Court.  However, just as the request for review is an uphill battle, so are any appeals to courts.

Important Notes About the Process

Continue to report to ODJFS throughout the process.  If you win, you will be paid only for the weeks that you reported.  If the online system stops taking your claims, call to report the problem and take care of it immediately.

If you have been paid benefits and later lose, ODJFS will demand that you repay any benefits already received.  Overpayments not paid in full within forty-five days of a decision becoming final may be referred to Ohio's Attorney General for collection.

Deadlines are very firm, and missing a deadline will likely be the end of your claim.  The limited circumstances when a deadline might be extended require you to: A) Provide certified medical documentation that you had a medical condition that prevented you from filing on time, or B) you must convince the Review Commission that you did not receive proper notice of the determination you are appealing.

No Fees Until You Win

Smith's Law Offices offers Free Initial Consultations. We additionally offer contingency agreements whenever possible, with no up-front fee.

We collect a fee ONLY if we are successful in obtaining your unemployment benefits for you.

You have nothing to risk or lose by calling Smith's Law Offices for your free consultation, so call us today before any of your unemployment appeal rights are lost. Whether you just received an unemployment denial and need to appeal or are about to have an unemployment hearing, we can help.

Statewide Representation

Because unemployment determinations are appealed in writing, and the hearings are conducted by telephone, Smith's Law Offices successfully represents clients throughout the State of Ohio.

Improve Your Chance to Obtain Benefits

The unemployment benefit appeal process does provide opportunities to obtain a determination in your favor, but you must have knowledge of the laws, the rules, and have the required tools to obtain and present evidence on your behalf.

The fact is, ODJFS does not operate based on what you know to be true, unless that truth can be shown to them, proven to them, and explained in a way that they can understand that Ohio statutes and rules require them to give you benefits.

The Ohio Unemployment Lawyers at Smith's Law Offices have the expertise and experience to navigate through the Unemployment Appeal process and to present the best case possible to obtain the benefits you deserve.   It is a simple decision: If you want to increase your chances of obtaining benefits, take advantage of a free consultation with the Ohio Unemployment Lawyers at Smith's Law Offices.


"Professional, upfront, knowledgeable, made the whole appeals process way less stressful, made me feel comfortable at the hearing, and won my appeal! Highly recommend using!"


"Brian is a very good attorney and I am very happy with the way that he handled my unemployment case. He is very professional and informative and easy to talk to and he explains concerns very well. I would recommend him to anyone. He is very thorough and made me feel very confident with him handling my case. Thank you very much for your hard work in my case."


"Thank you Brian for representing me with my unemployment case. I was over whelmed and devastated at the loss of my job after 27 years of employment. You was my rock that helped me through this nightmare, I couldn't have done it without you. You are very professional and easy to talk to, I appreciate all you did for me."


"Excellent service, not only did I win my case but the level of customer service was phenomenal!! Anytime i had a question it was answered so that i could understand it.
I was also extremely prepared and ready before we went to court.
It was such a nice process. I would recommend this company to anyone i know!!"  


"Beat Walmart unemployment case!  Took the time to help me think this case through. Helped me prioritize the events that happened. Came up with a winning strategy that ultimately won my appeal hearing against the retail giant Walmart!"


"There are only good things to be said about this Law Firm, Attorney Brian Smith and Attorney John Sivinski.  I was blindsided by separation at my former employment and then denied unemployment benefits as well.  In addition to the denial of benefits, I also lost two rounds of appeals.  Before my third appeal, which involved a phone hearing, I was very fortunate to find this Law Firm.  They were meticulous and extremely experienced in helping to turn the situation around."


"Brian is very responsive and very thorough. I was very nervous throughout the process, and he made me feel relaxed and confident. I would highly recommend Brian to all my friends and family because I am confident he will not let them down, he is very trustworthy and personable. Thanks so much Brian for your professionalism and you eagerness to go the extra mile. You are an excellent attorney."


"Mr. Smith is an amazing lawyer who listens and takes his time to make sure he understands every detail of your particular case. I would recommend him to my family/friends if ever needed. Mr. Smith helped me understand the procedure which helped me better prepare myself for my hearing. The outcome was exactly what we were looking for. Thank you!"


"I was extremely happy working Brian & John on my case.  They were very thorough & easy to talk with.  I would highly recommend them to anyone!"


"Great law firm.  My attorney help me immensely. My job fired me unjustly and they help me get my unemployment back. They help file everything and keep you updated on what going on. Very friendly and helpful. Wish these guys the best in the future!"


"Brian and his colleague John were incredibly helpful and supportive. Not only did they make me feel secure, I felt represented and heard. I won my case with their help and hard work! I highly recommend them for anyone who is having to fight their employer for unemployment. I can not thank them enough!"  


"Brian Smith is the best! He handled my claim in a most timely manner an professional manner. Could not have done this by myself. Bravo!!!"


"I would absolutely recommend Law Offices of Brian J. Smith, ltd. Brian and John worked with my (juvenile) son and I on a very challenging case. The case even went to the Supreme Court. . . We wouldn’t have WON without their experience and dedication. They were very professional, considerate and understanding especially when things became overwhelming for us. We couldn’t be more thankful for their services."

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Smith's Ohio Legal Blog

Please keep in mind that the success of any legal matter depends on the unique circumstances of each case and we cannot guarantee particular results for future clients based on successes we have achieved in past legal matters.
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