Oregon unemployment insurance matters necessitating attorney involvement typically arise in two situations. First and most common is where an employee is initially denied unemployment benefits and needs to appeal or is initially granted unemployment benefits and a former employer appeals. The second situation that sometimes warrants attorney involvement is where an employer is determined to have "employed" workers without paying into the unemployment system, usually as a result of misclassifying workers as independent contractors.
Most determinations related to Oregon unemployment benefits and taxes are initially made by the Oregon Employment Department (OED). OED's determinations are usually appealable to the Oregon Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), which assigns appeals to Administrative Law Judges (ALJs). ALJs typically hear matters on a de novo basis, which means that they are not bound by OED's decision. As a result, and also given the inefficiency of dealing with OED, a hearing before an ALJ is usually the earliest point at which it makes sense for an attorney to become involved in an unemployment insurance matter.
The most common dispute regarding unemployment benefits - by far - is whether an employee is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits because she or he was terminated for job-related misconduct. Though less frequent, there are a variety of other questions that can arise on appeal, including whether an employee had good cause for quitting a job or whether an employee was willing, able, and available for work.
Unemployment-related decisions issued by ALJs are almost always appealable to higher administrative agencies and/or courts. Sometimes these appeals go to the Oregon Employment Appeals Board (EAB) - another Oregon administrative agency that reviews OAH decisions. Other times there are additional or alternative appeal rights through the Oregon appellate courts.