Monthly Archives: January 2011

Unemployment Advice– Good Times to Seek It (and Not Be Too Late)

If you are a Wisconsin worker seeking unemployment benefits, you may be considering the idea of getting an attorney versus not getting an attorney.

I am not writing this point to convince you to get an attorney like me– despite my self-interest in having people retain me, I understand that’s a decision for only you  to make.

However, I will say that the timing of when you make that decision (if you’re going to make it) is important.

Sometimes, workers will call me and tell me they are interested in retaining me, but they are at such an advanced point in unemployment proceedings and/or have had preventable problems occur that I tell them I can no longer give them my most beneficial advice and I should not be retained.

If you are considering whether or not to retain an unemployment attorney, please consider these points in time when it can be particularly helpful to get advice from an attorney:

  • Before you apply for benefits.

Most workers can apply for WI unemployment benefits and get the ball rolling without assistance from an attorney.

The State’s unemployment division has good, straight-forward website information here about filing an unemployment application.

However, on occasion a worker has discomfort or has issues (e.g. unusual circumstances and unemployment eligibility issue) that an attorney could be of assistance with.

  • Before you fill out written documentation that describes your job termination (e.g. a letter or discharge questionnaire where you describe your view of the facts about termination) and submit it to the unemployment office.

Employees often make mistakes on written formwork– e.g. write about irrelevant issues, cast blame or judgments about the employer– that contribute to a denial of benefits and make me cringe as an attorney when I read it later.

An attorney could often help with such formwork, although a worker’s errors in completing the forms are usually not fatal, and there are certainly later points the worker could win unemployment benefits and an attorney could be effective.

  • Before you have a phone interview with an unemployment representative.

The phone interview is common occasion where an employee often makes mistakes, and can benefit from legal advice.  With that said,  many workers do not seek out legal advice at this pre-interview stage, although some will read articles on the State’s unemployment website or on this blog.

Here are some articles I’ve written that are pertinent to preparing for a phone interview: Three Rules for an Unemployment Interview or Hearing , Unemployment: The Legal Decision-Maker Isn’t Your Friend (Or Enemy), and Employee Tip: Filing for Unemployment in WI; Preparing for Appeal and Hearing.

Also, there is a blog page here that lists links to all my unemployment-related blog articles.

These articles talk about factors to consider before a phone interview, but they do not provide legal advice (for which you’d need to talk to an attorney about your specific circumstances).  If you spoke to an attorney before your unemployment phone interview about your specific circumstances, an attorney could provide legal advice about which facts and issues are most important, and advice about how you should prepare for your particular phone interview.

  • Before your unemployment hearing.

If you are going to talk to an unemployment attorney, then the time to do it is definitely before you have a hearing.

Once an unemployment hearing has occurred, that event has locked into place the case’s  “record”– the recording of all the testimony and documents/exhibits for the matter.  Once this record is established at the hearing, the parties are stuck with it.  If a party loses and appeals, they must base the appeal on the record, and cannot introduce new evidence.

An attorney can be far more effective in helping a worker before the hearing, and before the record is created.  The attorney can help prepare for the hearing, and its anticipated witnesses, testimony and exhibits. An attorney can help a worker be sure that the hearing, and the record, contains the facts and evidence that are supportive of you.

It is common for me to get a call from a worker who has lost their hearing, did not like that result, and decides at that point an attorney could be of help with appealing the hearing result.  But at that point, the attorney is stuck with the record and with whatever problems occurred leading up to it.

Of all the stages above, the unemployment hearing is a critical juncture.  If you are going to talk to an attorney, best to do so before the hearing.

With that said, a worker can always contact an attorney at any time (never say never), and workers can and have won appeals of hearings that were lost.  But the more time that passes, and the more events above that come and go, the less assistance there is that an attorney could potentially offer.

Please note this post does not provide legal advice- if you want legal advice, you must talk to an attorney about your specific situation. If you are interested in legal assistance from attorney-author Michael Brown or his law firm DVG Law Partner for your Wisconsin unemployment matter, please contact us here:

WI Unemployment - No Fees Unless You Win

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Three Rules for an Unemployment Interview or Hearing

If you are a Wisconsin worker with an unemployment application pending, you may have a phone interview or hearing coming up.  If you do, you will soon be answering questions from a legal authority in the unemployment process.

Before you have a phone interview or hearing– that is, before you start answering questions as a witness– please consider these Three Rules.

Rule 1: Listen to each question, very carefully.

Rule 2: Answer ONLY the question you were asked (without volunteering extra information, explaining yourself, or telling your “side”).

Rule 3: Be truthful.

These rules sound simple, right? They are easy enough to understand.  But it can be very hard to follow
them all.  For example, being truthful (#3) involves not lying.  Should be simple enough not to lie.  But if you volunteer extra information you weren’t asked for (violating #2), the legal authority may think you are lying or being evasive, because you’re not giving the information requested.

Once you are in the moment, and engaged in the question-and-answering process, your human instinct will urge you to violate the three rules.

Here’s an example of how many workers fail to follow the rules (I probably would too, if I didn’t have the benefit of repeat experience with the process).

PHONE INTERVIEWER (or JUDGE): What did the employer tell you was the reason for your termination?

EMPLOYEE: They told me I yelled and talked back to my boss and that I was “insubordinate.”  That wasn’t true.  I have never talked back to my boss or so much as raised my voice.  HR never even asked me for my side of what happened.  If HR had just talked to me and my coworkers, they would have known I never talked back to anyone.  My boss was the one constantly harassing people; he yelled at lots of people.

Notice this is the kind of response that human instinct will WANT to say. But the answer above does NOT respond directly to the question presented.  This kind of answer– no matter how true its components may be– is the kind of answer that makes witnesses lose credibility (and at times, their unemployment benefits) in the determination of the questioning unemployment official.

An employee following the 3 rules would realize that the first sentence of the answer above (“They told me… I was ‘insubordinate'”) is the only information needed to answer the question that was asked (“What did the employer tell you…”).

Employees commonly get into trouble by hearing the question as they WANT to hear it, e.g. hearing the unemployment official’s question above as if it were this: “What did the employer tell you, and explain to me why the employer is wrong and you’re right?”

All that extra stuff– the need to give an explanation of your “side”– is what your instincts will want to spill out of you.  You’ve got to keep a lid on that.  The easiest way to keep the lid on is to listen carefully to the question (rule #1).  If you listen to exactly what is asked of you, then it’s easier to precisely answer only what’s asked (rule #2) and to be truthful (#3).

Thus the Three Rules.  If you’re going to be an attentive and effective witness, then it’s critical that you listen to each question carefully, respond with exactly the information you’re asked for (and no more), and respond truthfully.

And telling the truth, by the way, is more than just not lying.

In a way, the response above is not truthful, even if  its volunteered/excessive facts (e.g. “My boss was the one constantly harassing people”) are true and supported by evidence.  While it’s not a “lie” to volunteer your side of the true facts, it’s nonetheless not being straight-forward.  That is, telling your story– when the question did not ASK you to– is a way of being evasive and defensive.

Much of my unemployment legal work involves helping employees internalize the Three Rules.  It is common for employees to violate the rules, left and right, and often it takes me a good deal of thought and practice until employees internalize the rules and adopt the function of a witness.  Employees often tell me, “yeah, yeah, I understand the rules, let’s move on”– but then we practice with some questions, and once on the hot seat, the employees realize that the Three Rules aren’t so easy to follow in real-time.

There are of course other important things to know and prepare for before you attend a phone interview and hearing.  It’s important to know which facts and issues are important, which ones are not, and which ones may annoy your questioner or even lose your benefits on the spot.

But the Three Rules come into play before you even think about the facts of what occurred.  The Three Rules are a matter of discipline, and understanding your place as an employee-claimant within the unemployment system.  Your role is that of a witness.  And the essential function of a witness is to listen to each question carefully, and to answer it precisely and truthfully.  If you do not properly understand and accept that role, then you could run into problems with the unemployment process, regardless of the merits and factual circumstances of how your job ended.

Please note this post does not provide legal advice- if you want legal advice, you must talk to an attorney about your specific situation. If you are interested in legal assistance from attorney-author Michael Brown or his law firm DVG Law Partner for your Wisconsin unemployment matter, please contact us here:

WI Unemployment - No Fees Unless You Win

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Filed under Employee Tip - Unemployment, Unemployment - Wisconsin

Contingency Attorneys for Discrimination Claims

Contingency Attorneys

A contingency fee is a type of attorney-fee arrangement where attorney fees are only paid if you win or settle your matter, in which case a percentage of the award (usually between 33.33%-50%) is paid to the attorney.  A flat fee is a type of attorney fee where a fixed (certain) amount is charged for the legal services at issue.  Sometimes a contingency fee will be mixed with a flat fee.  An hourly fee is charged by the hour, and rates commonly range between $150/hour to $500 or more per hour.  Hourly legal fees have a total value that is uncertain.  For example, if an attorney charges $300/hour, the total amount of legal fees will depend on the number of hours of work that are ultimately done (e.g. $3,000 for 10 hours of work, $4,500 for 15 hours, etc.).

List of Contingency Attorneys In Wisconsin

Below are some WI employee-rights attorneys who represent many workers on contingency for discrimination matters.  Whether they would agree to do so for you is up to them and you, and depends on the circumstances.  I believe most of these attorneys will represent workers from anywhere in Wisconsin.  (While you may prefer to hire an attorney located in your city, please know that is usually not necessary in my observation).

Thomas C. Lenz, Esq.

First, Albrecht & Blondis, S.C.

158 N. Broadway, Suite 600

Milwaukee, WI 53202

Phone: (414) 271-1972

Facsimile: (414) 271-1511



Attorney Brenda Lewison

Law Office of Arthur Heitzer

633 W. Wisconsin Ave., Suite 1410

Milwaukee, WI 53203-1920

(414) 273-1040

Atty. Jeff Scott Olson

The Jeff Scott Olson Law Firm SC

131 W Wilson St Ste 1200

Madison, WI 53703-3225

Phone: (608) 283-6001

Fax: (608) 283-0945


Atty. Sandra Graf Radtke

Gillick, Wicht, Gillick & Graf

6300 W Bluemound Rd

Milwaukee, WI 53213-4147

Phone: (414) 257-2667

Fax: (414) 257-9297


Atty. Richard F. Rice

Fox & Fox

Madison Office                         Milwaukee Office                        Chicago Office

124 West Broadway                   735 West Wisconsin Avenue     105 West Madison St.

Monona, WI 53716                    12th Floor                                          Suite 2200

(608)258-9588 x307[phone]    Milwaukee, WI 53233                 Chicago, Illinois 60602

(608)258-9105 [fax]                    (414)326-3260[phone]                (312)602-3203[phone]

(414)224-1411 [fax]

Atty. Rebecca Lynn Salawdeh

Salawdeh Law Office LLC

7119 W North Ave

Milwaukee, WI 53213-1810

Phone: (414) 455-0117

Fax: (414) 918-4517


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