100 Purpose of Appeal Tribunal

  1. The Texas Unemployment Compensation Act authorizes the appointment of impartial appeal tribunals consisting in each case of a salaried Hearing Officer in order to insure the prompt disposal of cases on appeal.
  2. The Appeal Tribunal may be called upon to perform the following duties:
    1. Hear and decide disputed claims for unemployment insurance under the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act;
    2. Hear and decide disputed claims for unemployment insurance filed by ex-service personnel and Federal employees;
    3. Rule on disputed claims filed under special programs administered by the agency;
    4. Act as Hearing Officer in hearing for the Commission.
  3. All state unemployment compensation laws are required to provide, among other things, "opportunity for a fair hearing, before an impartial tribunal, for all individuals whose claims for unemployment compensation are denied." Title III, Sec. 303(a)(3) of the Social Security Act.

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101 Independence of Appeal Tribunals

  1. It is a basic requisite for a fair hearing that a Hearing Officer be free to make a decision upon the merits of a case by exercising his/her own judgment.
  2. In making decisions in cases involving unemployment insurance, a Hearing Officer is required to follow the Statute and the Commission rules and policies governing the Texas unemployment insurance program. A Hearing Officer is also required to adhere to court and Commission decisions interpreting these statutes, rules and policies. Within these limits, however, he/she is not bound to uphold the decision of a claims examiner. It is his/her duty to hear and examine all pertinent evidence and to render a fair and impartial decision based on that evidence.
  3. While a Hearing Officer must follow precedents set by the Commission and the state courts, the Hearing Officer has some latitude in determining whether or not a particular case falls within the precedents established by the Commission and the courts. The facts in a case before the Hearing Officer may be distinguishable from those present in the precedent decision. Within reasonable limitations, factual differences in cases will support different conclusions. The Hearing Officer should be thoroughly familiar with precedent decisions so that he/she will be alert to situations that are distinguishable from established precedents.

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102 Attitude of the Hearing Officer

  1. It is not only important that a Hearing Officer actually be impartial and unbiased, it is important that a Hearing Officer present a demeanor and appearance of impartiality. This would include any appearance of bias, prejudice or favoritism. The Hearing Officer should be careful to avoid anything which may detract from this impartial attitude.
  2. The primary requirement of a fair hearing procedure is that the Hearing Officer approach the hearing with an open mind, without bias, and without pre-judgment of the issues. The Hearing Officer must have no such prior contact with the case or with the parties as might lead to bias or the appearance thereof.
  3. Relations with the parties and their representatives should be friendly, not stiff or formal; nonetheless, the Hearing Officer must be careful to preserve the dignity of the Tribunal. The Hearing Officer must appear to be impartial and objective, which means that, for the most part, he or she must be deliberate, calm, courteous, and patient. The prevailing attitude should be one of inquiry rather than of judgment. While the Hearing Officer must maintain control in the hearing, the treatment of the participants must not be antagonistic, harsh or rude. The Hearing Officer should avoid making uncalled for remarks not germane to the hearing.
  4. Contacts with Commission representatives and local office personnel should be cordial and harmonious. However, the Hearing Officer should, in the presence of the parties to the appeal, avoid giving the impression that he or she is friendly to the point of being prejudiced.
  5. The position of the Hearing Officer is one of public trust. It is a high judicial office in the field of administrative law. Public confidence can be retained only if the Hearing Officer conducts himself or herself at all times in accordance with the accepted canons of judicial ethics. See Section 104 of this manual.

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103 Principles of Appeal Hearings

Hearing Officers should be familiar with these principles and conduct themselves in accordance with the provisions that are applicable to them.

  1. The Commission will consider itself an impartial body when passing on appeals and rendering its decision on the basis of the record in accordance with the law.
  2. The procedure with respect to a hearing on a claim for unemployment compensation requires that each separate stage of determination and decision be free and independent of the other. This principle will be observed in the operation of the appeals function.
  3. The members of the Commission will not consult with the staff members of the UI Support Services Department nor with the Hearing Officers nor will these latter consult with the Commission members on any benefit appeal that is pending either at the Appeal Tribunal or Commission stage, except insofar as consultation may be necessary to conform with the provisions of subsection 212.151 of the Act. This does not preclude the Commission from obtaining information regarding administrative practice and procedures from the agency's staff members best qualified to furnish such information. No member of the UI Support Services Department or the Appeal Tribunal will ever attend Commission meetings during the consideration of appeals before the Commission except when needed to furnish such information. Ordinarily such information will be requested and furnished in writing and made available to all Commission members.
  4. An "Appeals Policy and Precedent Manual" will be maintained to consist primarily of digests of Commission precedent decisions. The Commission may direct the Office of Commission Appeals to revise the precedent manual either in its entirety or by inserting digests of decisions regarded by the Commission as having precedential authority. Copies of these decisions, which do not disclose the identity of the parties, shall be made available to interested groups or organizations as requested. Copies of the manual may be provided to these groups for a nominal fee. All such requests should be sent in writing to TWC, Office of Commission Appeals, TWC Bldg., Austin, TX 78778.
  5. If a Commissioner desires additional evidence, he/she shall specify and submit in writing to the Chairman at the Commission meeting the points on which additional evidence is needed. Such request, if not withdrawn, shall be granted. In such a case, the Commission may direct an Appeal Tribunal to take the additional evidence covering the points on which the additional evidence is desired or set a hearing before the Commission. Any subsequent rehearing will be as directed by the Commission.
  6. The Commission may request staff services in the writing of summaries of appeal cases and in the preparation of Commission decisions. This function, however, will not be performed by personnel in the Appeals Department or by personnel who are assigned to benefit processing, including the making of initial determinations. Copies of the summaries shall be made available to the individual members of the Commission.

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104 Ethics Policy

  1. The following is the Code of Ethics for the Texas Workforce Commission:
    We believe in respect for the individual and the development of human potential;
    We believe all persons are entitled to be treated with respect, compassion and dignity;
    We believe in employment without bias and advancement through excellence;
    We believe in openness and honesty in dealing with the general public and the people that we serve;
    We believe in striving for excellence in government by providing the highest quality service;
    We believe in conducting ourselves in a way that will avoid even the appearance of favoritism, undue influence or impropriety, so as to preserve public confidence;
    We believe in performing our duties without favor or prejudice and in a manner that merits the confidence and trust of the public.
  2. Appeals personnel should respect and comply with the law and should conduct themselves at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Appeal Tribunal
  3. No claims examiner will solicit from a Hearing Officer advice or guidance in arriving at a determination on a claim for unemployment insurance. No Hearing Officer will solicit from a claims examiner advice or guidance in arriving at an appeal decision nor will a Hearing Officer contact any claims personnel regarding any claim still in the process of investigation or initial determination without prior approval of the Hearing Officer's immediate supervisor or the Chief of Appeals.
  4. Appeals personnel should avoid any action that might appear to advance their own private interests or those of others. Interests would not be limited to those of a financial nature.
  5. Appeals personnel will not access and/or monitor any agency records pertaining to any individual or business unless it is necessitated by the performance of their official duties.
  6. Appeals personnel use of agency computers, including E-Mail and Internet functions, and other agency equipment, must be in accordance with the Information Security Agreement and agency policy, including restrictions to use in the performance of their work and in relations to their working hours.
  7. Appeals personnel will not process in any way an appeal for a relative or friend without review by responsible supervision. See also Section 214 of this manual.
  8. This policy applies to all levels of management and staff. Violation of any part of this policy may result in disciplinary action.

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