Thursday, February 05, 2009

Why Maryland Employment Lawyers Are Reluctant to Represent Claimants in Unemployment Hearings.

UPDATE:  Maryland unemployment changed the regulation discussed below.
Today The Washington Post published two articles on unemployment compensation: Deluge Is Holding Up Benefits to Unemployed Decline in Funding Forces Staff Cuts as Claims Swell and New Jobless Claims Surge to 626,000. The first article mentions the often harrowing appeal process that may occur when an employer contests a claim for benefits.

Potential clients often ask me if I will represent them in unemployment hearings. Sadly, my answer typically is no. The reason: a regulation limits the amount of compensation an attorney may charge for a hearing. The regulation limits the fee to $100 for a hearing, which can be increased to 150 percent of the claimant's weekly benefit amount upon an attorney submitting "an itemized account of services rendered in the case." The maximum weekly benefit amount is now $380. Hence, the maximum fee that could be awarded for an unemployment hearing is $570.

Five hundred seventy dollars is nothing to scoff at, but: (1) not every applicant is eligible for the maximum amount; (2) preparing for and attending a hearing often involves several hours of attorney work; and (3) a fee of more than $100 is awarded for a hearing only upon submission of a petition and approval by the Board of Appeals. Hence, most Maryland employment lawyers are reluctant to represent claimants in unemployment hearings.

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