Understanding the Process - Filing for Unemployment Compensation Benefits

Authored By: Northwestern Legal Services

Filing a Claim:

Filing a claim for UC benefits in Pennsylvania now takes a matter of minutes by telephone or Internet. This is a stark contrast to the previous way of driving to and from the UC office, waiting in long lines, and filling out forms which took hours. The Commonwealth has completed implementation of Statewide UC telephone claims service by establishing eight regional Call Service Centers.

All Call Service Centers can be reached by using Statewide toll-free numbers: 1-888-313-7284 and TTY 1-888-334-4046. Local numbers are also available for individuals living within local calling distance of the Call Service Centers: Allentown 821-6735; Altoona 946-7224; Duquesne 267-1315; Erie 871-4311; Indiana 599-1250; Lancaster 299-7711; Philadelphia 856-6990; Scranton 496-2332. A geographical map is located on the Website of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry at

You may use the website to used to file a UC claim and to access a multitude of employment and training opportunities through CareerLink.

Standard Application of Unemployment Compensation Law:

In Pennsylvania, a computer system now standardizes the way Unemployment Compensation (UC) Law is applied to quit and discharge cases. The Expert Assistance System for Examiners (EASE) determines if a person is eligible for Unemployment Compensation benefits. It works this way.

When a claimant reports being discharged or quitting a job, the claimant is asked questions from an issue-specific form by a UC Claims Examiner. The employer is telephoned by the Examiner and interviewed by using an issue-specific form developed for employers. The form is faxed to employers who cannot be reached by telephone and mailed to those without a fax. The employer has 48 hours to respond to a fax and seven days to respond to mailed forms. If the information is not received within the specified time, a determination is made based on the available information.

After the fact-finding is complete, the Examiner enters the information into the system. EASE responds by asking a series of related questions that the Examiner must answer to resolve all issues. EASE then writes the determination using consistent language and explains why benefits are allowed or denied and mails the determination directly to each party.

Expanding the system to eventually include all issues is being considered in a continuing effort by the Commonwealth to ensure consistency, efficiency, accuracy and promptness in processing Unemployment Compensation claims.

UC Referee's Hearing:

Unemployment Compensation (UC) is for people who lose their job through no fault of their own. If your application for UC benefits is denied by the UC Service Center you have 15 days to appeal. If you are granted benefits the employer may appeal. A Referee's Hearing will then be scheduled.

You will receive a Notice of Hearing telling you the date, time and place of the Hearing, along with the name of the Referee and the issues to be decided. You should arrive at least 15 minutes before the Hearing to review the Exhibit File to see what was said by the employer and you. The employer may also do this. The Referee will come out and announce it is time for the Hearing and take you and the employer to the Hearing Room.

The Referee will explain the procedure and your rights. He will name the documents in the Exhibit File and ask if anyone objections to them. The Referee will get all the facts from you and the employer. The Hearing is tape recorded and anyone testifying is asked to take an oath to tell the truth.

You should have your facts organized before you go to the Hearing so you can tell your story to the Referee. Take any documents to support your case and give them to the Referee. You may also take witnesses who were directly involved. The Referee will listen to you and to the employer and any witnesses. Each side may question the other and the Referee may ask anyone questions at any time.

The Referee will issue a decision in writing. It will list the facts, the law that applies, and whether benefits are granted or disapproved. The Referee's Hearing is very important because it is the only time you can tell your side of the story in person.

Either side can appeal the Referee's Decision to the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review and if not satisfied with that decision appeal to the Commonwealth Court. However, no one appears in person and no new issues can be brought up at these levels of appeal. The tape recording of the Referee's Hearing and the Exhibit File is sent to the next level of appeal for their review to decide whether the Referee made the correct decision according to the law. Feel free to contact your local legal services program if you need help with a UC case.

Employment Discrimination:

It is against the law for employers to discriminate based on a persons race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability. It is also against the law for employers to tolerate discriminatory actions in the workplace. Incidents of harassment and discrimination which occur in the workplace should be reported immediately in order to address the issue and prevent future occurrences as well as to preserve legal rights. Most employers have internal complaint policies and procedures for employees to report improper conduct and for the employer to investigate and take action to resolve the issues.

Employees may also file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if the employer does not address the issue, or if the employer itself engages in unlawful acts, such as improper hiring or termination practices or unequal treatment in the workplace. By law, an employer is prohibited from intimidating or retaliating against an employee who files such a complaint with the government agency. Detailed information may be found at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Website: or telephoning toll free: 1-800-669-4000 or (TDD) 1-800-669-6820.

We have attempted to insure the accuracy of the information in this Pamphlet at the time it was created or revised. However, the law does change, sometimes quickly and unexpectedly. Therefore, you should consult an attorney before taking or refraining from any action based on the information.

Last Review and Update: Sep 04, 2008