Although the formal rules of evidence do not apply in administrative hearings, the parties and the hearing officer must still properly enter documentary evidence into the record. In Willis v. Director, Department of Unemployment Assistance and Springfield Area Transit Company, Inc., the employer failed to produce the custody and control form with the results of the drug test that was the basis for the discharge. Later in the hearing, the Review Examiner asked whether a potential witness the employer had declined to call, who was still in the waiting room, might have the document. The Review Examiner left the hearing room, returned with the drug test results, entered the document into the record on her own accord, and ruled against the claimant. On appeal, the District Court found that Review Examiner had exceeded the authority granted to her under the Informal/Fair Hearing rules by considering evidence a party did not present at the hearing, from an individual who did not testify and was not subject to cross examination. Concluding that the decision was made upon unlawful procedure affecting the claimant’s substantial rights, the court reversed the decision and awarded benefits.
Advocate, Susan Garcia Nofi, Central West Justice Program.