Code of the District of Columbia

§ 51–111. Determination of claims; hearing; appeal; witness fees.

(a) Claims for benefits shall be made in accordance with such regulations as the Director may prescribe. Each employer shall post and maintain in places readily accessible to individuals in his service printed statements concerning such regulations or such other matters as the Director may by regulations prescribe. Each employer shall supply such individuals with copies of such printed statements or materials relating to claims for benefits as the Director may by regulation prescribe. Such printed statements or materials shall be supplied by the Director to each employer without cost to him.

(b) Promptly after an individual has filed a claim for benefits, an agent of the Director designated by it for such purpose shall make an initial determination with respect thereto which shall include a determination with respect to whether or not such benefit may be payable, and if payable, the week with respect to which payments will commence, the maximum duration thereof, and the weekly benefit amount, except that in any case in which the payment or denial of benefits will be determined by the provisions of § 51-110(e), the agent shall promptly transmit such claim to an appeal tribunal which shall make a decision thereon after such investigation as it deems necessary, and after affording the parties opportunity for fair hearing in accordance with subsection (e) of this section, and the claimant and interested parties shall be given notice thereof and permitted to appeal therefrom to the Director and the courts as is provided in this subchapter for notice of, and appeals from, decisions of appeal tribunals. An initial determination may, for good cause, be reconsidered. The claimant and other parties to the proceedings shall be promptly notified of the initial determination or any amended determination and the reasons therefor. Benefits shall be denied or, if the claimant is otherwise eligible, paid promptly in accordance with such initial determination except as hereinafter otherwise provided. The Director shall promptly notify the claimant and any party to the proceeding of its determination, and such determination shall be final within 15 calendar days after the mailing of notice thereof to the party’s last-known address or in the absence of such mailing, within 15 calendar days of actual delivery of such notice. The 15-day appeal period may be extended if the claimant or any party to the proceeding shows excusable neglect or good cause. The exception for good cause or excusable neglect shall apply to all claims pending on July 23, 2010, including those in which an appeal has been filed in the Office of Administrative Hearings or in which a petition for review has been filed in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. If an appeal tribunal affirms an initial determination allowing benefits, such benefits shall be paid regardless of any appeal which may thereafter be taken. If, subsequent to such initial determination, benefits with respect to any week for which a claim has been filed are denied for reasons other than matters included in the initial determination, the claimant shall be promptly notified of the denial and the reasons therefor, and may appeal therefrom in accordance with the procedure herein described for appeals from initial determinations.

(c) To hear and decide appealed claims, the Director shall appoint 1 or more appeal tribunals to hold hearings in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Director at which all parties shall be given opportunity to present evidence and to be heard. In the conduct of such hearings, the parties shall not be bound by common law or statutory rules of evidence or other technical rules of procedure, but the appeal tribunal shall use due diligence to ascertain the true facts of the case.

(d) Each appeal tribunal shall consist of either an examiner regularly employed by the Director on a salaried basis or a body composed of an examiner who shall act as chairman, and, without regard to the civil service laws otherwise applicable, of 1 representative of employees and 1 representative of employers, each designated by the Director. No representative shall be regularly employed by the Director, nor shall any person acting in any case on behalf of the Director have any interest, direct or indirect, in the case. In no case shall the hearings proceed unless the examiner designated as a member of an appeal tribunal is present; and if either or both of such representatives fail to appear for any such hearings or are disqualified from participating in any such hearings, the examiner shall proceed to hear the case; provided, that the Director may designate alternates to serve in the absence or disqualification of any member of an appeal tribunal. Each such representative shall be paid for each day on which he actively engaged or was present and prepared to engage in the conduct of any such hearings, such sums, not in excess of $10, as the Director shall by regulation prescribe.

(e) An appeal tribunal, after affording the parties reasonable opportunity for fair hearing, shall, unless such appeal is withdrawn, affirm or modify the finding of facts and the initial determination. The parties shall be duly notified of the decision of such appeal tribunal, together with the reasons therefor. The Director, under regulations prescribed by the Director, may permit further appeal by any party or may, upon the Director’s own motion, affirm, reverse, or modify the decision of the appeal tribunal or may set it aside and order a rehearing or the taking of additional evidence before the same or a different appeal tribunal. Unless a petition for such appeal is filed within 10 days of mailing of the decision of an appeal tribunal, or within such 10-day period the Director has taken action on the Director’s own motion in accordance with the provisions of this subsection, the decision of the appeal tribunal shall constitute the decision of the Director and shall be effective as such. Any decision of an appeal tribunal which is not so modified or so appealed within such 10-day period is final for all purposes, except as provided in § 51-112, and is not subject to review by the Office of the Inspector General. All decisions rendered by the Director affirming, reversing, or modifying any decision of an appeal tribunal shall become effective immediately, unless the Director shall otherwise order, and are not subject to review by the Office of the Inspector General.

(f) A full and complete record shall be kept of all proceedings in connection with an appealed claim. All testimony at every hearing on any such claim shall be taken down by a stenographer or recording device, but shall not be transcribed except upon order of the Director or in the event of an appeal pursuant to § 51-112. Upon any such appeal, a copy of all the testimony and of the findings of fact upon which the Director’s decision was based shall be filed with the court, and the facts so found shall, if supported by evidence, be binding on the court.

(g) Witnesses subpoenaed pursuant to this section shall be allowed fees at a rate fixed by the Director. Such fees shall be deemed part of the expense of administering this subchapter.

(h) The Director shall establish and administer a Claimant-Employer Advocacy Fund, funded with monies collected as interest and penalty payments from employers due to their late filing of wage reports, late payment of employer contributions, and late payment of payments in lieu of contributions. The Fund shall be used exclusively to support the provision of assistance to and legal representation for claimants and employers involved in administrative appeals of claim determinations made by the Director. The Fund shall support the provision of such assistance and representation for claimants at the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO and shall support the provision of such assistance and representation for employers at the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and at the Greater Washington Board of Trade. The total amount of funds which the Director provides from this Fund to the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, shall be twice the combined amount provided to the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Washington Board of Trade.

(i) Testimony in hearings arising under this subchapter may be given and received by telephone.

(j) Any finding of fact or law, determination, judgment, conclusion, or final order made by a claims examiner, hearing officer, appeals examiner, the Director, or any other person having the power to make findings of fact or law in connection with any action or proceeding under this subchapter, shall not be conclusive or binding in any separate or subsequent action or proceeding between an individual and his present or prior employer brought before an arbitrator, court, or judge of the District of Columbia or the United States, regardless of whether the prior action was between the same or related parties or involved the same facts.

(k)(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter, all correspondence, notices, determinations, or decisions required for the administration of this subchapter may be transmitted to claimants, employers, or necessary parties by electronic mail or other means of communication as the claimant, employer, or necessary party may select from the alternative methods of communication approved by the Director. The Director shall issue a list of such approved methods of communication within 45 days of September 20, 2012.

(2) Notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter, all correspondence, notices, determinations, or decisions issued by the Director may be signed by an electronic signature that complies with the requirements of § 28-4917 and Mayor’s Order 2009-118, issued June 25, 2009.