Unemployment Appeals

Going all the way back to the Great Depression, Washington State has been a leader in reducing involuntary unemployment and the suffering it causes. Washington's Employment Security Department is responsible for distributing benefits to unemployed workers, but, sometimes, the Department makes incorrect decisions.

Generally, to qualify for unemployment benefits, an unemployed worker must show four things. First, she must have filed an application for benefits. The Department will use this application to automatically register the worker with WorkSource. Second, she must have been unemployed for a one-week waiting period. Third, she must be ready, able and willing to immediately accept any suitable work that is offered to her and must be actively seeking work. Fourth, she must be unemployed through no fault of her own.

You should know that there are some other specific disqualifications that are not addressed on this website. If you have questions about the Department disqualifying you for any other reason, call employment attorney Adam R. Pechtel at (509) 586-3091 immediately.

Most workers do not have problems meeting the first two requirements, but trouble is often lurking in the last two requirements.

To qualify for benefits, a worker must be ready, able and willing to immediately accept any suitable work that is offered to her and must be actively seeking work.

To be "ready, able and willing to immediately accept any suitable work," a worker cannot deny an offer of employment if it is determined to be "suitable work." To be suitable, the work must be consistent with your prior work experience, education and training. If that kind of work is not available, the suitable work includes any work which the worker has the physical or mental ability to perform. One note of caution: a worker must be in the area where they are seeking work. When a worker is absent for vacation, for example, the worker does not meet the "ready, able and willing to immediately accept suitable work" requirement and should not receive benefits.

To be "actively seeking work," a worker must make a minimum of three job search contacts per week. A job search contact can be as simple as asking an employer about a job. The Department can also choose to require you to make more than three job search contacts per week. Workers receiving benefits must keep a record of their job search contacts including: date, employer's name, employer's address, employer's telephone number, how the contact was made, the name or position of the person contacted and the type of work applied for.

To qualify for benefits, a worker must be unemployed through no fault of her own. This means the worker cannot be fired for employment-related misconduct. It also means the worker cannot have quit their job. There are ten exceptions to the disqualification for quitting. These ten exceptions are collectively known as "good causes."

Misconduct that does not harm the employer does not disqualify a worker from benefits. A common mistake that is made by the Department is denying benefits to a worker who was fired for misconduct, but the misconduct was not work related. Some common examples of work-related misconduct are:

  • The worker deliberately refuses to follow the employer's reasonable directions or instructions.
  • The worker is repeatedly late to work or absent from work, and the employer has warned the worker in the past about being late or absent.
  • The worker deliberately falsifies company records, steals from the employer or lies to the employer.
  • The worker violates a reasonable company rule, and the worker knew or should have known about the rule.


Misconduct does not include inefficiency, unsatisfactory conduct, ordinary negligence in isolated instances or good-faith errors in judgment or discretion.

If a worker voluntarily leaves her job, she is not eligible for unemployment benefits. There are eleven exceptions to this disqualification:
  • The worker quit to accept a real offer of work.
  • The worker quit because the worker was ill or disabled or an immediate family member died, was sick or was disabled so long as (a) the worker made reasonable efforts to stay employed, (b) told her employer why she was absent, (c) requested reemployment when she was able to work again and (d) the worker is not entitled to return to the same or similar position (note that workers relying on this exception often have trouble showing they are "ready, able and willing to immediately accept any suitable work."
  • The worker quit in order to be relocated with her spouse, who was transferred to a job outside the local area, and she continues to work until the move.
  • The worker quit to protect herself or her immediate family from domestic violence.
  • The worker quit because her pay dropped 25 percent or more.
  • The worker quit because her hours dropped by 25 percent or more.
  • The worker quit because her job site changed, the new location was substantially farther away or made commuting difficult and the new location made her commute longer than the normal commute in the local area.
  • The worker quit because her workplace became unsafe, so long as the worker reported her safety concerns to her employer and the employer did not correct the safety hazards within a reasonable period of time.
  • The worker quit because of illegal activities in the workplace, so long as the worker reported the illegal activities to the employer and the employer failed to stop the illegal activities within a reasonable period of time.
  • The worker quit because her usual work was changed to work that violates her religious convictions or sincere moral beliefs.
  • The worker quit to enter an approved apprenticeship program.
  • If you have been denied unemployment or have been ordered to pay back an overpayment, call Kennewick, WA's Adam R. Pechtel now at (509) 586-3091.