By Mitzi Wyrick
In a ruling that will undoubtedly affect how employers choose to proceed with respect to unemployment claims, the Kentucky Court of Appeals held that employers must have counsel to represent them in referee hearings and before the Kentucky Unemployment Insurance Commission. In Nichols v. Kentucky Unemployment Insurance Commission, et al., the Kentucky Court of Appeals reviewed a decision in which the claimant was denied unemployment benefits after his employment was terminated. The claimant, Michael Nichols, was terminated by his employer, Norton Healthcare, Inc. (“Norton”), for failure to comply with instructions, falsification of records, and misfeasance of company resources. After being fired, Nichols submitted an application for benefits saying that he had been terminated for lack of work. Norton contested the claim. The unemployment division determined that Nichols had been terminated for misconduct and had intentionally misrepresented this fact on his application for benefits. Nichols appealed the decision to the referee. An evidentiary hearing was conducted at which Norton was represented by a non-lawyer. The referee affirmed and the decision was affirmed on appeal to the Commission and again at the Jefferson Circuit Court.