Illinois Court Rules Employer Representation by Non-Attorneys in Unemployment Compensation Hearings is Not the Unauthorized Practice of Law
On Thursday, August 6, the Illinois Court of Appeals in Grafner v. Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) ruled that it was proper for the employer to use non-attorney representatives in an unemployment hearing.
SHRM submitted an amicus brief arguing that unemployment proceedings are not judicial proceedings and that the long-standing practice of non-lawyer representation of both parties for informal unemployment compensation proceedings should not be banned.
In the Grafner case, the employee was represented by an attorney while the employer was represented by a non-attorney third party. After her unemployment compensation was denied, the employee challenged the decision arguing that the employer’s representative engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, thereby invalidating the denial of unemployment compensation.
In 2007, SHRM intervened in two similar cases decided by the Pennsylvania courts (Piunti v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Harkness v. Unemployment Compensation Review Board). In its decision, the Grafner court quoted extensively from the Harkness decision agreeing that unemployment compensation hearings are intended to be simple and informal and that employers may use non-attorney representatives so long as their actions fall short of legal analysis.
The Illinois State Council of SHRM, along with the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center, Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council, Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, Association of Unemployment Tax Organizations, and UWC-Strategic Services on Unemployment and Workers’ Compensation joined SHRM’s amicus brief in the Grafner case.
The court’s decision in Grafner is available HERE.