When an individual applies for unemployment compensation the Mississippi Department of Employment Security ("MDES") sends a notification to the employer asking for an explanation as to why the individual's employment was ended. Depending on what the employer informs MDES is the reason for the employment ending it may deny unemployment benefits to an individual. If MDES denies an application for unemployment benefits it will give the individual the opportunity to appeal the determination. The individual will get a hearing from an administrative judge with MDES and will be able to present testimony from witnesses and documents to prove their case. Likewise, the employer has the same opportunity to provide their defense.
So if an individual should have been entitled to unemployment benefits why would they not appeal an improper denial by MDES? The reason is if they lose at the administrative hearing they could automatically also lose some employment claims they are looking to pursue under a legal theory called collateral estoppel. For example, if an individual was terminated in retaliation for taking FMLA leave that individual could have a claim for FMLA retaliation. However, if that individual applies for unemployment benefits, gets denied, appeals the denial and then losing the appeal hearing; the individual would also automatically lose the FMLA retaliation claim.
There is an exception to this rule though. If the employment claim has to go through an administrative process like the EEOC prior filing the claim then collateral estoppel would not apply. If you have been denied unemployment benefits and you are deciding on whether to appeal the best advice would be to consult with an employment lawyer to determine (1) if you have any employment claims you can pursue and (2) if you lose the unemployment hearing would your employment claims also be collaterally estopped.
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