Note: As a result of increases in fraudulent claims during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the federal PUA program, DUA implemented an identity verification requirement for claimants (see Part 7, Question 69). This requirement generally requires claimants to verify their identity, typically using photos of the front and back of their social security card, an official photo identification, and an address verification if the address on the identification is different from that used for the UI claim.
DUA may ask a worker to furnish some or all of the following information when applying for unemployment:
- name (in English), home address, mailing address, and telephone number;
- Social Security number or card;
- date of birth;
- home address, telephone number and email address (if available);
- proof of citizenship; or, if a non-citizen, proof of satisfactory immigration status, including an "alien" identification number, work authorization including expiration date, permanent resident alien card ("green card"), or other official documentation from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS, formerly INS) and a copy of the document (See Question 51);
- names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all employers during the prior 15 months and the dates of work for each employer;
- employment start and stop dates and recall dates;
- union name and local number (if a union member);
- check stubs or records of earnings, if available;
- last day of work, reason for separation including any separation notice, termination notice or pink slip;
- the state and county for any non-Massachusetts Child Support orders;
- if choosing direct deposit (rather than debit card), bank account number and bank's routing transit number; (note: if this information is not provided, DUA will automatically provide UI benefits through a debit card);
- name, date of birth, gender, and Social Security number for each dependent, including proof of dependency (any one of the following is acceptable: birth certificate, "green card," passport, Social Security card, school document, medical record, health insurance card, tax form. See BR-0027 4975 64 (3/28/19) (child’s birth certificate and Social Security card were sufficient to establish the claimant’s relationship with her child);
See BR- 0024 6239 17 (12/24/2018) (Dependent child’s Social Security card and signed hospital birth record satisfied DUA identification requirements for a dependency allowance) (See Question 47);
- if applicable, a doctor's certificate of (a) any work restrictions, or (b) the claimant's capability to work at least part-time for 15 hours a week or more (with or without a reasonable accommodation. (See Question 8);
- if applicable, military discharge papers, the DD-124 Member 4 form (can be requested on line at http://www.dd214.us);
- if employed by federal government within the past 18 months, the SF-18 and/or SF-50 form provided by the government employment at the time of separation.
Other information that DUA may require includes that relating to union pension and/or other pension payments, workers' compensation, vacation or personal time-off pay, severance pay, and enrollment in a school or training program.
Note: Advocates should warn claimants not to file their UI claim through third parties who charge a fee for this service. DUA will accept only those claims coming directly from a worker.
Investigation and initial adjudication of claim
If the employer questions the claimant's eligibility for UI benefits, a DUA claims adjudicator conducts an investigation. The DUA will require the claimant and the employer to complete initial questionnaires that are either posted on their account through UI Online or sent by mail, depending on the choice of correspondence. If there are additional questions that have arisen as a result of the employer’s response, DUA requires the claimant to fill out a rebuttal questionnaire that is either posted online on the claimant’s account or mailed to the claimant. The claimant can respond either online or by telephone, to provide their explanation of the reason for separation.
DUA is under a federal obligation to make a “reasonable attempt to obtain material facts from the parties.” ET Handbook No. 301, 5th ed., Change 1 (10/13/05). However, the timelines offered to the parties to accomplish this are very tight and inexplicably DUA has recently made the requirements even harsher. DUA provides the parties with written notice that information is required by a certain date. The deadline set for receipt of information can be five days or 10 days, but no less than two business days. AH c. 1, § 2A. DUA provides that if a response to a questionnaire has not been returned by the deadline date, “adjudicators may proceed with adjudicating the issue utilizing the information available.” UIPP # 2018.02, Reasonable Attempts (3/23/2018). If a fact-finding has been timely returned and the adjudicator has further questions and cannot contact the party, the adjudicator must call, leave a detailed message, and provide 48 hours for a response. Id.
Note: DUA has ended its practice of sending the claimant questionnaires about employment during the claimant’s base period with non-interested party (non IP) employers (employers who did not employ the claimant within the last eight weeks before filing for UI benefits). Additionally, a claimant’s failure to respond to a questionnaire about employment with a non IP employer should have no impact on the claim. If problems occur, contact DUA Constituent Services preferably by email at email@example.com or at 877-626-6800 toll free for area codes 351, 413, 508, 774, 978 or 617-603-6800.
Typically, the claimant and employer statements do not appear on the claimant’s account. After a hearing is scheduled, the claimant will receive an appeal case folder containing the claimant and employer statements relevant to the issue on appeal in their UI Online inbox. If the claimant selected U.S. mail as their notification preference, a copy of the appeal case folder should also be mailed to the claimant. They are also available in hard copy in the Hearings Department file and advocates should review them as a routine part of hearing preparation. If DUA has not yet scheduled a hearing, documents are available by sending a Public Records Request to DUA. See a Appendix I.
Advocates should look carefully to see whether a DUA staff member in fact made contact with your client and, if there are language barrier issues, determine if DUA used an interpreter. (See Question 52.)
Notice of Approval/Notice of Disqualification
At the conclusion of this initial adjudication of the claim, the adjudicator issues a Notice of Approval or a Notice of Disqualification on the claimant's eligibility for unemployment benefits based on the information gathered. (See Appeals Process, Part 6.) If the claims adjudicator decides a claimant is eligible, benefits date back to the date of application.
Generally, information collected under the UI statute is not a public record, not admissible in any other proceeding, and is absolutely privileged. G.L. c. 151A, § 46(a). Tuper v. North Adams Ambulance Serv, Inc., 428 Mass. 132, 137, 697 N.E.2d 983, 986 (1998) (affirming that the confidentiality provisions of § 46 provided additional support for a judge's allowance of defendant's motion to preclude any reference to a UI decision and proceedings in a subsequent civil action; Yin v. Biogen, Inc. 2015 WL 8024542 *6 (D. Mass. 12/4/15)(same); Bergeron v. L & M Flooring, LLC, 92 Mass. App. Ct. 1104, 87 N.E. 2d 1202 (table), 2017 WL 3623500 * 4 (8/24/17)(same and noting that UI decision cannot be used offensively against the defendants in a subsequent civil action for wrongful termination). Anyone who unlawfully discloses information collected during the claims process may be punished with a maximum fine of $100 and up to six months in jail. G.L. c. 151A, § 46(e). The Appeals Court has ruled, however, that the “basic underlying fact of . . . receipt of benefits” is not information protected by Section 46(a). Howell v. Enter. Publishing Co., 72 Mass. App. Ct. 739, 752, 893 N.E.2d 1270, 1283 (2008).
Some limited exceptions exist to this confidentiality/non-admissibility rule. See G.L. c. 151A, § 46(b)-(c). The statute allows disclosure to the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy for administration and enforcement of the Massachusetts healthcare law, including the "free rider" surcharge on employers who do not provide health insurance and the employer's "fair share" assessment, G.L. c. 151A, § 46(c)(7); and to provide information to the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, G.L. c. 151A, § 46(j).
Moreover, an exception to this privilege arises whenever the information is sought for use in “any civil or criminal case brought pursuant to [chapter 151A] where the department or commonwealth is a necessary party.” G.L. c. 151A, § 46(c)(1).
The Superior Court held that when a claimant appeals a Board of Review decision to the District Court, “the records of that proceeding . . . [become] a matter of public record outside of the provisions of [G.L. c. 151A, § 46],” Beaubrun v. Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of N. Andover, LLC, 29 Mass.L.Rptr. 154, 2011 WL 6379299, *1 (Mass. Super. 2011) (emphasis in original). However, on appeal, the Appeals Court held that the underlying rationale for a DUA decision and the record of the substance of the proceedings are protected by the privacy provisions of G.L. c. 151A, § 46, and that as a consequence, factual findings in a DUA decision may not be accorded issue-preclusive effect, Beaubrun v. Family & Cosmetic Dentistry, 85 Mass. App. Ct. 1104, 4 N.E. 3d 939, (2014).