AM I ELIGIBLE TO GET UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS? Tennessee provides unemployment compensation benefits to most private, wage and salary workers who have become unemployed through no fault of their own.

HOW MUCH MONEY WILL I GET IF I AM ELIGIBLE FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS? Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-7-301 sets out the benefit formula and a benefit table. Ask how much you will receive when you apply for unemployment compensation benefits.

CAN I GET BENEFITS IF I WAS FIRED? You may qualify for unemployment compensation benefits if you were forced to quit your job or were laid off due to lack of work. If your misconduct caused you to be fired you will not get unemployment compensation benefits.

HOW DO I APPLY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS? Go to your local Department of Employment Security office and apply for benefits once you are unemployed. The clerk will help you with the paperwork. Be careful. Read the forms carefully and complete all the information truthfully and fully.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I FILL OUT ALL THE PAPERWORK? The employment security office will make an initial decision. If they have not received enough information they may have a hearing to ask both parties more questions.

WHAT DO I DO IF I AM TURNED DOWN FOR BENEFITS AFTER THE INITIAL DECISION? You will receive a written notice of the initial decision. You or your employer have fifteen (15) days from the mailing date of the decision to file an appeal. (not fifteen days from the date you received the notice) This date of mailing is found near the end of the notice. The appeal is to the Appeals Tribunal, whose address will be on the notice. In most situations if you miss the 15-day time limit to appeal, your right to disagree is over and you will not receive unemployment compensation benefits. The notice will tell you why you have been turned down for benefits. If you believe the unemployment decision is wrong, you may give the correct information in your appeal to the Appeals Tribunal. The Appeals Tribunal will give you a fact-finding hearing before a judge.

WHAT DO I DO IF I AM TURNED DOWN FOR BENEFITS BY THE APPEALS TRIBUNAL? You will receive a written decision from the Appeals Tribunal hearing. You or the employer has fifteen (15) days from the date of the decision to file an appeal to the Board of Review. The Board of Review’s address will be on the notice.

WHAT DO I DO IF I AM TURNED DOWN FOR BENEFITS BY THE BOARD OF REVIEW? When you receive the Board of Review decision you have ten (10) days to ask for a rehearing before the Board of Review. Once this decision becomes final, you have forty-five (45) days to appeal to the Chancery Court in your county. BEWARE, YOUR CASE WILL BE OVER AND YOU WILL NOT RECEIVE UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS IF YOU MISS ANY TIME LIMITS!

WHAT DO I NEED TO TAKE TO A HEARING? You may take any documents and persons that will prove you are eligible to receive unemployment benefits. This will include any warnings, notices, doctor statements, policy handbooks, time sheets, etc. that are available. Any person you bring as a witness must have firsthand information about what happened. You have the right to a copy of your unemployment file.

WHAT IS A SUBPOENA AND DO I NEED ONE? A subpoena is a written notice to appear at a hearing. Witnesses who are employed with your previous employer can be subpoenaed. Even friendly witnesses should be subpoenaed because you may be able to continue your case if they can not come to the hearing due to an illness or accident. Also witnesses may need a subpoena to get time off from work to testify. Be sure to tell your friendly witnesses why you are subpoenaing them. You may also subpoena documents in your employer’s possession and ask that they be brought to the hearing by the person keeping the documents. An example: time cards May - July, 2009.

HOW DO I GET SUBPOENAS? Your requests for subpoenas are sent in writing to the Department of Employment Security 500 James Robertson Parkway, Nashville, Tennessee, 37245 no later than five (5) days prior to the hearing. The request should have a list of witnesses with their home addresses, not work addresses. For documents, you need to submit in writing a description of the document(s) you want subpoenaed, and the purpose of the document and the name and address of the person who keeps the document.

If you have a telephone hearing, a few things are different. The documents you wish to submit as evidence should be mailed to the Department of Employment Security no later than ten (10) days prior to the hearing. This will enable you or the employer to obtain a complete document file if necessary.

SHOULD I REQUEST AN IN-PERSON OR TELEPHONE HEARING? If you do not feel comfortable giving testimony in front of your employer, it may be best to request a telephone hearing. The Department of Employment Security will have a telephone hearing if you reside in Tennessee and the employer is in another state. All parties involved and the judge will be involved in this conference call hearing. This hearing is recorded. If you request a telephone hearing you must provide a phone number where you can be reached and be at the number at the hearing time.

Most hearings will be in-person. These hearings are better because you have the chance to face the employer and to explain your side of the story. A judge will hear the testimony. All hearings are recorded. You may also examine the unemployment file if you did not previously get a copy. You may also examine any documents the employer enters as exhibits at the hearing.

DO I NEED LEGAL REPRESENTATION? The unemployment benefits compensation process is a complicated process that involves subpoenas, witnesses, hearings, judges, and exhibits. The decisions will effect your future financial security.

During most of the unemployment process you can represent yourself or ask someone else to speak for you who is not an attorney. This person should know about your case and should feel comfortable speaking for you. You may wish to hire a private attorney. If you do not know an attorney, contact your local bar association for a referral to an attorney. You may contact your local legal Services Program to obtain an attorney or paralegal to assist you in your case. If you have gone through the lower level of appeals and you will be going to a judicial review in Chancery Court, you must be represented by an attorney.


1. You must follow all instructions given to you from the day you file your unemployment claim. Your benefits may stop and you may be required to pay back the unemployment compensation benefits if you do not follow instructions. If you are not receiving benefits, your claim may be closed and you may not get benefits.

2. You must call into the Tip-Line or mail in your claim cards every week to keep your claim open.

3. You must go to the employment security office for updates and provide additional information when it is requested.

4. You must report incomes you earn during the weeks you are unemployed. For example: You report to the employment security office what you earned the week you worked, even if you did not get paid for that week. If you do not report the income, it could be considered fraud.

5. You must prove you are willing, available and able to work to get unemployment benefits. If you have been injured on the job see Other Sources for Help to discuss Your Workers Compensation Rights. You must continue to check with Job Service and search for employment weekly.

6. If you are a veteran you will be given special instructions by the veteran council person. You must comply with the instructions to become eligible or to continue to receive unemployment compensation benefits

7. If you have any changes during the unemployment claim process be sure to report them right away and keep the name of the person you called and the date. This is especially important as most of the appeal deadlines are from the date of mailing the decision. Report changes of name, address, or phone number.

8. You must follow all deadlines in order to get unemployment benefits.

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