6 Tips for Navigating the Unemployment Process in North Carolina

Unemployed and struggling to get by? Now, you can't even get the state to give you unemployment benefits. Even if your employer is not disputing your benefits, navigating the unemployment process in NC can be a minefield. This guide provides useful tips to help make this lean time less stressful.

  1. Quit or Get Fired?  One question we hear frequently is "should I quit before they can fire me?" This is a complicated question because there are many factors to consider. Frequently clients worry that a termination will negatively affect employment prospects in the future. However, if you're planning on utilizing unemployment benefits while you develop your next plan of action, quitting your job can make recovery exceptionally difficult. North Carolina unemployment laws require an employee that has voluntarily resigned employment to prove that the employee left work with good cause attributable to the employer. As an experienced unemployment attorney will tell you, this can be a difficult burden to meet. Conversely, if the employer chooses to terminate the employment relationship, the burden now shifts to the employer to prove that the employee engaged in misconduct within the meaning of the law. If you've been terminated or are considering resigning, do yourself a favor and speak with an experienced unemployment attorney before making a decision.

  2. Applying for Benefits.  Although applying for benefits is often the most critical step in the unemployment process, many people do not seek legal advice prior to applying. During this process you will fill out forms and an adjudicator from the Division of Employment Security will telephone you and conduct and informal interview. Often the adjudicators are pleasant and easy to talk to. However, it is important to understand that anything you write, or say during the conversation, can be held against you during a subsequent appeals hearing. Frequently, very strong cases are derailed at this stage. This is why it is essential to speak with an attorney prior to giving any statements regarding your case.

  3. Appealing a Negative Determination.  You have 30 days to appeal a negative determination issued by the adjudicator. Again, keep in mind, any admissions you make can be used against you during the Appeals Hearing. After you have appealed the determination an Appeals Hearing will be scheduled. Most hearings are scheduled within 30-60 days after appeal, but that schedule can vary greatly. If you haven't discussed your case with an attorney, this can frequently be your final opportunity to seek effective assistance. It is also imperative that you file work search records every week, even if you are denied. If you are ultimately successful in overturning the decision, you will only receive benefits for weeks that a work search record was filed.

  4. The Appeals Hearing.  The process leading up to the Appeals Hearing is often relatively informal and painless. Too frequently this provides a false sense of security for clients. Because most hearings are conducted by telephone, clients expect the process to be similar to the initial conversation with the adjudicator. Clients are then blind-sided by a formal judicial hearing, governed by evidentiary rules where evidence is presented through direct examination, cross examination, and closing arguments. This stage of the case is so critical because any evidence that is not presented during the hearing is likely barred from further consideration in the case.

  5. Appealing a Negative Appeals Hearing Decision.  In the event you are unsuccessful at the Appeals Hearing you have 13 days from the date the decision was mailed to appeal. Should you choose to appeal, remember that evidence that was not presented at the hearing is only admissible under very limited circumstances. Currently North Carolina employs a Board of Review to evaluate hearing appeals. At this stage of the appeal you will have an opportunity to obtain a copy of the record and submit a written argument supporting your appeal to the Board of Review. Clients frequently retain an attorney at this point, but fixing the damage can be difficult at this late stage. An experienced attorney can provide you with an assessment of your case at this stage and counsel you on your best options going forward.

  6. Appealing...Again.  If you are aggrieved by the decision of the Board of Review, you may request reconsideration within 10 days or judicial relief within 30 days. However, the current structure of the Division of Employment Security allows the very same Board of Review to evaluate their own decisions. As your can imagine, very few cases are reversed at this stage. You also have 30 days to appeal your case to the Superior Court in the county where you were employed. This process involves filing a complaint for judicial review and serving all necessary parties. If you are considering appealing your case to this level, it is imperative you speak with an attorney, as the process can be complicated and minor mistakes can doom the case.

Click HERE for more information on navigating the unemployment process in North Carolina. 


Robert Ingalls

I am the founding member of Ingalls Law, PLLC. My practice focuses primarily on Civil Litigation, Personal Injury, and Workers' Compensation. I graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science, and received my law degree three years later. I have been admitted to the North Carolina State Bar and the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. I represent clients in the areas of Civil Litigation, Workers' Compensation, Employment Discrimination, and Personal Injury. I have also represented employees and employers in hundreds of unemployment benefits hearings throughout North Carolina. In addition to my law practice, I am an active member of the North Carolina Bar Association, Mecklenburg County Bar Association, American Bar Association, Delta Theta Phi Law Fraternity, and The North Carolina Advocates for Justice.