Appealing WI Unemployment Initial Determination- Be Careful When Stating “Reason” In Your Appeal Form/Letter

On behalf of Peterson, Berk & Cross, S.C.

If you are a Wisconsin worker who lost your initial determination for unemployment benefits, the next step is to submit a timely appeal. An appeal can be submitted online here, or via a letter. When submitting the appeal, you should be very careful to follow the instructions closely, and to submit the appeal before the deadline. The initial determination form you received will state the deadline, and the instructions for filing an appeal via internet or letter.

One mistake I see many WI workers make, is that they will state the reasons for their appeal in too much detail, and often volunteer details that are unnecessary or even harmful for their case.

For example, I have seen some workers’ appeal letters (or internet form boxes like that above) state something like this for reasons for an appeal : “Appeal Reason: My employer lied, and targeted me for a discriminatory termination… [followed by paragraphs or pages of explanation about why the employee is in the right, the employer is in the wrong, etc.]…”

Usually, statements like this are irrelevant and a bad idea.

Please consider these things before you write down reasons for your appeal.

  • An attorney could help you clarify what reasons for appeal are important, irrelevant or even harmful.

For example, if a worker lost his initial determination due to a finding of discharge for misconduct, that worker would usually be making a mistake if his appeal reasons made statements about what the employer did wrong. If the issue for unemployment appeal is misconduct, then the worker’s conduct (not the employer’s) is what is at issue. If a worker in facing misconduct allegations points the finger at the employer, then no matter how true it is what the employer may have done wrong, at best this information is irrelevant. At worst, it looks like the worker is playing the blame-game, and diverting attention away from his conduct, which is what in fact the unemployment division is required to review.

An attorney with experience in WI unemployment law can help a worker understand what the most important issues are, before that worker decides what the important issues seem to be, based on instincts or assumptions that can often be wrong.

  • Your reasons for appeal usually do not need to be stated in detail on the appeal form/letter.

The purpose of the appeal form/letter is (usually) to set up a hearing- at that hearing is where your reasons for appeal, and all the facts at issue, will be addressed in detail. So the reasons for appeal in the form above need not be detailed.

Oftentimes, a worker who lost the initial determination based on discharge/misconduct, could write a reason for appeal as simple as something like this:

“Appeal Reason: I dispute that I committed misconduct before being discharged.”

Again, only an attorney could give legal advice as to the best reason to write, and what is irrelevant or best not to write.

When workers approach me for assistance with their appeal hearings, and I see their appeal formwork has paragraphs’ worth (or worse, pages’ worth) of reasons for their appeal, nine times out of ten those long and detailed responses contain information that is irrelevant or not advisable to state.

  • Your reasons for appeal can mirror the findings in the initial determination.

For example, if the initial determination says there was a finding that a worker quit for a reason that was not good cause, then such a worker could write a reason for appeal as simple as something like this (as applicable):

“Appeal Reason: I dispute that I quit.”


“Appeal Reason: I dispute that I did not have good cause to quit.”


Whatever else it is that you dispute about the initial determination.

  • To be safe, you could call the unemployment office (before the appeal deadline), and (1) ask if there will be a hearing set up if you timely appeal; and (2) whether the appeal reason you are about to write is sufficient for the appeal form/letter.

You can call the unemployment office, using the phone number stated on your initial determination form. You can ask, first, whether in fact a hearing would be set up if you appealed. (In most situations, an appeal of an initial determination will in fact lead to a hearing). If you know there will be a hearing, then you know that the purpose of the hearing will be to get into the facts in detail. Thus, your appeal form/letter would not need to detail all the same facts that will be later addressed at hearing. Knowing that, you could plan to use a brief statement/reason for appeal like one of those above, as applicable. To be safe, you could ask the unemployment division whether that reason is detailed enough.

I personally have not encountered an appeal that was rejected by the WI unemployment division, or that faced other problems, because its stated reasons for appeal were not lengthy or detailed. But if you want to be extra safe that the (ideally brief) reasons you’re planning on submitting are acceptable, then you could contact the unemployment division to be sure your form or letter is sufficient.

  • Submit your appeal as early as possible.

Finally, you should consider submitting your appeal as early as possible- ideally, the same day you get the determination, and definitely well before the deadline. Doing this would allow extra time for the unemployment division to tell you any concerns or problems it may have with the appeal form/letter. In my experience, it is rare that there are any problems with appeal formwork (assuming they are timely submitted before the deadline), as the main function of the documents is simply procedural- something that is submitted to get the appeal process and hearing underway.

I hope this information is of use when you consider submitting a WI unemployment appeal, and stating reasons for the appeal.