Fact-Finding Hearings and Appeals for Unemployment Benefits

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*NOTE: This article discusses the process for traditional unemployment benefits.  There are additional federal benefits such as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).  Please see other articles on our website for information about these benefits. However, it is important to note that Iowa Workforce Development put many people into traditional unemployment benefits at the beginning of the pandemic and is now asking people to pay that money back. You could do a backdated application for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) in an effort to erase that “overpayment”. You can do that application here: https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/pandemic-unemployment-assistance-proof-earnings-submission


Many people who file for unemployment have to go through a hearing to find out if they get benefits. Here is an overview of this process.

What happens next after I file my unemployment benefits claim?
After you file for unemployment, Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) will call you.  It may be an unscheduled “cold call.” IWD may also “cold call” your employer to ask them to provide a statement as well.  
If IWD tries to call you and can’t reach you, they may try a second time within 48 hours.  If IWD calls you and gets your voice mail, they may leave a voice mail with callback information and give you a two-day deadline to return the call and provide your version of the facts related to your unemployment case.  
If you answer the phone, the IWD representative will ask you questions about your unemployment case right then.  The representative should tell you that you can still choose instead to have a scheduled “Fact Finding Interview” phone call at a set date and time in the future.  This set date and time is a traditional “fact finding interview” (described in more detail below).  You still have the right to choose this option.  However, providing your statement and version of the facts to the IWD representative whenever they “cold call” you will likely result in faster processing of your claim.  
Because of this new “cold calling” process, there are a few important things to keep in mind:
•    Make sure IWD has the correct phone number for you.  If that number is for a cell phone, keep the phone charged and with you.  If the phone number is for a landline, you may want to stay near it to be able to answer it, and if you will be away, make sure it is hooked up to an answering machine.
•    Make sure your voicemail box/answering machine is not full and that people can leave messages.  Check the messages every day.
•    If you get a voice mail message from IWD, call them back right away.  If you do not return their call by the two-day deadline, they will likely make a decision based on whatever information they have, which might be just the employer’s statement/version of the facts.

Traditional Fact-Finding Interview Process

You and your employer will have a fact-finding interview with a representative from Iowa Workforce Development (IWD). Both you and your employer will get a "Notice of Unemployment Insurance Fact-Finding Interview." This notice will tell you the date and time of the interview. It will also have the telephone number IWD will use to call you.  Right now, “Fact Finding Interviews” are not being scheduled and “Notices of Unemployment Insurance Fact-Finding Interviews” are not being sent out unless you specifically request a scheduled fact-finding interview when IWD “cold calls” you.
If you request a fact-finding interview, the IWD representative will call you at the time of the fact-finding interview.
If you cannot take part in the fact-finding interview at the scheduled time, let IWD know right away. Otherwise, you may lose your benefits.

How do I find out the result of a fact-finding interview and what if I disagree?

•    A few days after the interview, you will get a decision in the mail.
•    If you do not agree with the decision, you have 10 days to appeal and have a hearing. The days are counted from the date on the bottom of the decision. Your employer may also appeal the decision.
•    You can appeal online here: https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/ui-appeal
•    You can also appeal by completing the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Form and sending it in by mail or fax.  The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Form can be found online here:  https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/sites/search.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/files/60-0169%20Unemployment%20Insurance%20Appeal%20Form.pdf
•    You can mail in this completed form to:
Iowa Workforce Development Appeals Bureau
1000 East Grand Ave.
Des Moines, IA 50319
•    You can fax in this completed form appealing the fact-finding decision to: 515-478-3528.

What takes place during a hearing?

Parties in a hearing will be able to:
•    Cross-examine opposing parties and witnesses;
•    Present testimony of witnesses;
•    Have a copy of the case file to inspect and review in advance;
•    Request an interpreter for the hearing, if needed; and
•    Parties can submit a written statement and exhibits, if they have either. This hearing is the most important step in the appeals process.
•    You will generally not be able to add any new information about your case after this hearing.  
•    This is the step where it can be most helpful to have an attorney, although you are not required to have an attorney and many claimants represent themselves at these hearings.   
•    Iowa Legal Aid typically represents claimants at this stage in the process – at the ALJ hearing.  Please call Iowa Legal Aid as soon as possible in the process if you would like to see if an attorney can help you at the ALJ hearing.  You can call Iowa Legal Aid to do an intake about your unemployment case even right after you first apply for benefits and if you are eligible, an attorney can help give you advice about each step in the process and possibly represent you at the ALJ hearing.  
•    You must offer as evidence any papers you want the judge to consider. This must be done at the time of the hearing. This is true even if the document is part of the fact-finding file.
•    The hearing notice you will receive when the ALJ hearing is scheduled will also provide instructions for submitting documents for the hearing by mail, fax, or email.
•    If you are going to offer a document as evidence, you should fax it into the judge and to the employer prior to the time of the hearing if the hearing is by phone. The fax number for the IWD Appeals Bureau is (515) 242-5144.  You can also email documents to uiappealshelp@iwd.iowa.gov.  
•    If you appeal the fact-finding decision online, you will have the option to upload up to three documents that you want to try to submit as evidence at the ALJ hearing.  If you have more than three documents, you would need to send in the additional documents by fax, mail, or email.
•    If the hearing is in-person, bring extra copies of the document for the judge and the employer and present them at the time of the hearing.
•    Both you and your employer may be represented by a lawyer at this hearing.
•    The Administrative Law Judge will send out a decision after the hearing.

What is the difference between a telephone hearing and an in-person hearing?

•    At a telephone hearing, the judge, you and your employer will all take part in a conference call. At an in-person hearing, everyone is together in the same room.
•    Only 15 IWD centers across the state conduct in-person hearings. You will likely have to wait longer for an in-person hearing than for a telephone hearing.
•    If you were already approved for benefits after your fact-finding interview, you will continue to get benefits while you wait for the hearing. If you are continuing to get benefits while you wait, you may have to pay back those benefits if you lose at the hearing.

Is waiting longer to have an in-person hearing a good or bad idea?

•    Waiting could be bad because if you lose at the hearing, you will have a larger amount of benefits to pay back.
•    Waiting could be good if you need time to prepare for the hearing. You may be able to use the time to conduct what is called "discovery." Discovery lets you ask your employer in writing to get documents and answers to questions to help you prove your case.

What if I don't agree with the Administrative Law Judge's decision?

•    If you disagree, you have 15 days to appeal. The 15 days start on the date at the bottom of the decision. Your employer may also appeal.
•    Appeals are made to the Employment Appeal Board (EAB) or to an Iowa District Court. It is your choice.
•    If you appeal to an Iowa District Court, you can appeal either to the district court in the county you reside, or to Polk County District Court, if you don’t reside there.  For more information on Iowa District Court, here is their website: https://www.iowacourts.gov/iowa-courts/district-court/
•    If you appeal to the EAB, a 3 person panel appointed by the governor, you can do so online here: https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/ui-appeal
•    You can also appeal by completing the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Form and sending it in by mail or fax.  The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Form can be found online here:  https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/sites/search.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/files/60-0169%20Unemployment%20Insurance%20Appeal%20Form.pdf
•    You can mail in this completed form to:
Employment Appeal Board
Lucas State Office Building
4th Floor
Des Moines, IA 50319
•    You can fax in this completed form to:  515-281-7191.
•    The EAB will send you a CD recording of the hearing. You have seven days from the date the CD is mailed to you to submit in writing why you think the Administrative Law Judge's Decision was right or wrong. If seven days is not enough time, you can get a seven-day extension if you request it in writing within seven days of when the CD was mailed to you.
•    The EAB members will review a transcript or CD of the hearing. They will also look at any evidence in the case, along with written arguments submitted by the parties. Then they will issue a written decision.
•    If you do not agree with the EAB's decision, you have two options:
o    You can ask the EAB for a rehearing of your case; OR
o    You can appeal to the Iowa District Court (even though you didn’t appeal directly to the Iowa District Court initially).
A request for rehearing must be made within 20 days of the date of the EAB's decision. An appeal to the Iowa District Court must be filed within either 30 days of the EAB's decision, or within 30 days of the EAB denying your request for rehearing. If the EAB takes no action on a request for rehearing within 20 days of receiving it, the request for rehearing is considered to be denied.
The District Court will issue a written decision a few months after your appeal. From there, you may appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court. An appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court must be made within 30 days of the date of the District Court's decision.

Do I have to keep doing work searches during my appeal? Should I keep filing? Do I always report my wages?

Yes, yes, and yes. You should keep filing your weekly continued claims during the appeal process. If you fail to do so, you will likely lose out on the weeks you did not file your claim, even if you end up winning your case. You should document your work searches weekly. You should also report any and all income you received in any given week.  The failure to document income received in a given week, even the wrong amount, has led to IWD accusing people of fraud. Don’t fall into that trap!



Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans. 

To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:

  • Call 800-532-1275.
  • Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161.
  • Apply online at iowalegalaid.org
If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” on the Iowa State Bar Association website iowabar.org.   A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.
As you read this information, remember this article is not a substitute for legal advice.
Last Review and Update: Dec 30, 2022
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