Unemployment benefits upheld after employer misses phone hearing 

An employer who failed confirm its presence at a telephonic hearing it was scheduled to have with a recently terminated employee couldn’t convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that it was denied a reasonable opportunity for a fair hearing.

When J.R. was denied her claim for unemployment benefits because she was found to have been discharged for just cause, she appealed. During a scheduled telephone hearing with an administrative law judge, only J.R. called in for the hearing and provided testimony because the ALJ had not been provided with a telephone number for her former employer, Fidelity Automotive Group, Inc.

The decision denying J.R.’s benefits was ultimately reversed when the ALJ concluded she was not discharged for just cause, but Fidelity later stated it had waited an hour for the ALJ to call during the telephonic hearing and had received no call. Fidelity realized that a page stating it would participate in the hearing had not been faxed to the judge along with the other required paperwork it had submitted, including its telephone number.

But a trial court indicated no additional evidence would be accepted and therefore affirmed the ALJ’s decision in J.R.’s favor. The Indiana Court of Appeals likewise affirmed in Fidelity Automotive Group, Inc. v. Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and J.R., 19A-EX-614.

In its decision, the appellate court noted that Fidelity did not argue that it never received notice about the telephonic hearing or the requirements that in order to participate in the hearing, it would need to deliver an enclosed acknowledgement sheet to the appeals office by mail, fax, or in person or provide a telephone number.

“Fidelity also does not assert that it called the judge’s clerk to confirm its telephone number or retained a fax confirmation to prove its document was sent as stated in the U.I. Appeals Hearing Instructions,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote. “Fidelity does not demonstrate that it delivered a completed Acknowledgement Sheet or a telephone number to the ALJ or the appeals office prior to the hearing.

“Based upon the record, we conclude that Fidelity has not established that under the circumstances it was denied due process or a reasonable opportunity to participate in a telephonic hearing,” the appellate court concluded.

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