Illinois Unemployment Law: Understanding the Process

When an employee is terminated in Illinois, he or she may file for unemployment benefits, however, the claim can be contested by the employer. Here is how the process works from initial claim, contest, hearing and through appeal.

Upon termination of employment, employees can file for unemployment benefits with Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). It could be done online or in person at one of IDES locations. Filing is free and every application will be accepted. There are several procedural stages that come into play after employee files his or her request for unemployment benefits. For the most part IDES procedure deals with deadlines. Meeting of the deadlines is crucial. Usually, if a party misses a deadline, the case is closed and no appeals would be allowed.

Employer May Contest the Claim

First, after employee files a petition, employer has a right to contest the grounds of the claim. Employer usually alleges that employee was either fired for misconduct or left voluntarily. IDES will provide a contest form for the employer. Employer is given only ten (10) days from the date of the letter to respond. If employer misses this deadline, case is over and employee gets the unemployment benefits. Also, explanations that employer was out of state or that the letter was not delivered timely because of the post office mistake does not work. This is a very strict rule and it is exercised very aggressively by IDES.

Second, if protest is filed on time, the case gets to IDES caseworker. The caseworker has an absolute discretion in making a substantive decision. The caseworker might schedule an interview with the employee or make a decision based on the evidence presented. At this stage the main question is how trustworthy is the employee's claim. No evidence is required from the employer.

Third, the caseworker would mail the letter of determination to both parties. From the date of the letter, losing party has 30 days to appeal this decision. The letter would describe in details how to appeal. Usually any appeals are filed with the local office where the employer is located. Also, the quickest and easiest way to file an appeal is to send it by fax. If you submit your appeal by fax, make sure you print out a confirmation page and attach it to the appeal letter. If you mail your appeal, make sure you make a copy of the envelope with a postmark reflecting the date you mailed the appeal.

Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge

At this stage, you will be asking by IDES Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to schedule a formal hearing and reverse the decision made by the caseworker. This will be also a good time to submit any evidence (timesheets, handbooks, policies and procedures, any statements, etc).

When ALJ schedules a hearing, IDES sends a letter to each party advising of the time and date for the hearing and the issues to be resolved. Any argument in regards to an issue that is outside of what is discussed in the letter will not be considered.

Fourth, the hearing. IDES hearings are held over the phone. Each party must file an attorney appearance, if any; submit witness list and any evidence twenty four (24) hours before the hearing. Also, each party must exchange any information the parties are planning to refer to at the hearing at least one (1) business day before the hearing. This is very important rule that is very often overlooked. The whole unemployment benefits process is governed by administrative law of the state of Illinois. Therefore, rules of evidence are very relaxed. Objections are usually overruled by ALJ. But it is an absolute MUST that a party have a copy of the documents that the other party is planning to introduce at least some time before the hearing. Also, ALJ must have it before the hearing as well. If a party does not submit such evidence to either the opponent or ALJ, the party will be barred from referring to such evidence at the time of the hearing.

Also, no ex-parte communication is permitted, meaning the claimant and/or employer cannot communicate with the ALJ without all involved parties present. Therefore, ALJ will never provide his or her phone number. Any messages must be submitted either via fax or by mail with a curtsey copy to the other party. It is highly advised to submit such copies via FedEx at least twenty four (24) hours before the hearing and obtain FedEx tracking number.

What Happens at the Hearing

The hearing itself resembles any other court hearing. The judge will call the parties, attorneys and the witnesses. Usually, it is a burden by preponderance of evidence on the party that is appealing the decision by a caseworker to prove that the caseworker abused the discretion. If the appealing party is not present, the judgment will go automatically to the other side. The whole procedure is recorded on tape.

ALJ will first establish jurisdiction, review is appeals were filed timely and swear in all witnesses. ALJ might also ask some basic questions as what was the rate of pay, when was the employment terminated, etc. After that each party can do direct testimony and cross examine the other side. At the very end each party will be given an opportunity to make closing statements. ALJ will render the decision within fourteen (14) days after the hearing and a copy of such decision would be mailed to each party.

After the Decision Another Appeal Can Be Made

After the decision is rendered, once again a losing party has thirty (30) days to appeal such decision. But now the appeal must be filed with IDES Board of Review, which consists of three (3) judges. The appeal must be filed with Chicago office only. It can also be submitted by fax or mail. There are two types of appeals:

1.        You simply write a formal letter asking to review ALJ's decision;

2.        you request a transcript of the hearing and submit a brief based on that transcript.

Board of Review does not hear every appeal. It picks and chooses the ones it would like to hear. Therefore, there is a better chance to make an argument if a losing party would write a brief and order a copy of the transcript. Keep in mind, that at this stage no new evidence will be allowed. The judges will only look into the evidence and arguments that were presented to ALJ at the time of the hearing and decide whether ALJ made a mistake or abused discretion by making his or her decision. If the Board overturns ALJ's decision, then the case will be sent back to another ALJ. If the Board upholds the decision, a losing party can only go to civil court to seek other relief. The Board also might not request a hearing and make a decision based on the record.

If a party loses its appeal at the level of IDES Board of Review, the party can go to civil court and sue the whole IDES department alleging that the process is not proper. Attorney General would represent IDES. Chances to win such a suit are not the greatest. The party must prove that IDES' caseworker, ALJ and three judges at the Board of Review made some sort of a mistake or abused discretion and deprived such party of its rights or property.


It might seem like there are many rules in IDES matters. But if a party meets its deadlines and keeps the opponent informed of any communication with the judge, the party will be able to make its argument. Whether the party wins on substantive grounds is a different question, which we discussed at length in the previous article "Illinois Unemployment Law: Overview of Basic Substantive Rules."

Please feel free to contact our office for more information. 847.241.1299



0 #59 Fedor 2016-12-19 15:19

Yes you can. However, if your former employer wins the appeal, you would need to retrun any money you collected.
0 #58 David 2016-11-28 21:24
I just received a letter stating my former employer is appealing a caseworker's decision. Can I still get benefits while I wait for my hearing date?
0 #57 Fedor 2016-03-19 15:59

I dont think so. New rules are very strict. You need to work with the local office
0 #56 qrtrms 2016-03-18 23:42
I recently ran out my 26 weeks. It's my understanding that there are no extended benefits available per a conversation with agent. She told me no need to keep certifying. So I didn't do it for the next 2 weeks. I was just looking online earlier at the idea website and clicked on certify. Whe. I did it showed 2 weeks available to certify for. So I went ahead and did so just in case. Do you know why it showed that? Is there possibly more benefits available for me?
0 #55 Fedor 2016-03-13 16:33

It looks like you are doing everything correctly. Without having your IDES papers, it is really difficult for me to advise. What you had described does not constitute misconduct under 602A. But I need more information.
0 #54 Minnie Dabney 2016-03-07 16:10
I am in the Request for Redetermination phase. I have written out the request and have several emails for the judge(s) to refer to as my proof that I was wrongfully terminated for misconduct. My business was a census=driven business. As with an sales you cannot guarantee you will have X amount of business by X date. My boss fired me for not meeting census and said since they weren't giving me a severance package, they wanted me to file unemployment since I wasn't getting fired for misconduct. I filed. They contested and won! So they lied verbally as well. I've called the IDES-contracted attorney but she doesn't know if she'll represent me. What are my options and best way to proceed?
0 #53 Fedor 2016-01-19 17:57

What was the local office determination?
0 #52 Tamika 2016-01-19 17:32
I had a scheduled appeal and I missed the call but the appeallant (former employer) failed to appear. the judge dismissed the case. Does that mean my benefits will stop
0 #51 Fedor 2016-01-02 18:32

the employer did not have to be present at a hearing.
0 #50 diana 2015-12-30 19:08
so i had a appeal interview bc of an insane denial. somewhere down the line (no idea where) i was found to have put undue restrictions called able and available- which again- WHERE DID THIS COME FROM? ok so i interviewed, i had 2 witness sworn in- employer wasnt on phone. i submitted work search phone records etc and was told i d receive ruling in the mail... i thought employer had to be present in case they chose to question witness'?

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