How to Prepare

Unemployment Insurance


General Hearing Information

What does the Office of Administrative Hearings do?

The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) is an administrative court. When a person or business disagrees with a decision made by the Employment Security Department (ESD), OAH will hear and decide the dispute. The judge who hears your case is neutral, and not employed by ESD. The judge is a lawyer who is familiar with unemployment insurance, tax and training laws. Following your hearing, the judge will make an independent decision based on the facts gathered at the hearing.

Who attends the hearing?

The claimant and the employer attend the hearing. They may also have witnesses participate. Someone from ESD may also participate.  Each party may have someone represent them.

Do I need a lawyer?

Most people who attend unemployment hearings represent themselves.  If you wish, another person may represent you.  A friend or a family member may represent you.  You may also hire a lawyer.  If you cannot afford a lawyer, free or low cost representation may be available.  You may contact:

Can I change the hearing date?

The hearing date will be changed only if there is an important reason to do so.  Make your request as soon as possible, but at least 24 hours before the hearing.  Call the OAH office listed on your Notice of Hearing. You will speak with a judge to explain why you want the hearing date changed. The judge may grant or deny your request.

If you have other things that conflict with the hearing date, try to reschedule those things first. If the hearing date is changed, OAH will mail all parties a new Notice of Hearing with the new date and time. Keep all documents mailed to you for the new hearing date.

What if I do not participate in the hearing?

The hearing is your only opportunity to tell your story and share your documents.

If you requested the hearing but do not participate, your hearing request will be dismissed. ESD’s decision will remain in effect.

If you did not request the hearing and do not participate, the hearing could be held without you.

What if I need an interpreter?

Hearings and decisions are in English. If you or any of your witnesses need an interpreter, you can request a free interpreter.  Your friends or family members cannot be your interpreter.

To request an interpreter:

  • Contact OAH at the telephone number on the Notice of Hearing or
  • Click Request Interpreter to view instructions in many different languages

Make your request as soon as possible.

What if I have a disability and require an accommodation?

If you or any of your witnesses have a disability and require an accommodation to participate, contact OAH as soon as possible. You will need to tell OAH about how the disability effects the ability to participate and describe how we can help by accommodating the need so you can access our facilities and services. 

Click Request Accommodation to request an accommodation or call OAH at (360) 407-2700 or (800) 583-8271.  

Preparation for Hearing

How do I prepare?

You will receive a Notice of Hearing and a packet of information.  Read these documents carefully. You should have these documents with you during the hearing.

If you have more documents you want the judge to see, you must immediately send them to the judge and all other parties listed in the Notice of Hearing.  OAH will not send additional documents to the other parties. Do not wait to submit your documents.  If you do not follow these instructions, your documents may not be considered.

How do I participate?       

Your hearing will be held by telephone.  Your Notice of Hearing will have detailed instructions. 

If you misplace your Notice of Hearing, call OAH at (360) 407-2700 or (800) 583-8271.

If you want witnesses to participate, you will need to give them the instructions on your Notice of Hearing. You do not need to be in the same place as your witnesses during the hearing.

If you use a cell phone, please be sure the battery is fully charged and that you have clear reception. If you are disconnected, you need to call back into the hearing right away.

If you do not have access to a phone, you may arrange to use one at your local WorkSource office. Please be sure to make the arrangements before the day of your hearing.

How do I research the law?

OAH cannot provide legal advice.  If you would like to research the law, click Legal Research and Resources

Additional resources:

Resource Phone Number Website

OCLA (Office of Civil Legal Aid)
New COVID-19 resources including free legal representation
  OCLA Website
Unemployment Law Project
Free legal representation, and free advice and counsel
  (888) 441-9178 (Seattle)
  (800) 940-9178 (Spokane)
Form:  ULP Contact Page (click "Ask a Question")
Fax:  (206) 727-4819

Employment Security Department 

(800) 318-6022

Title 50 RCW 

(Statute governing Employment Security Department hearings) 

  Title 50 RCW

Washington Law Help

Past decisions from ESD hearings

  Precedential Decisions

OAH Legal Research & Resources page

  Legal Research


Click below to view the brochure “How to Prepare and Present Your Unemployment Hearing.”

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