We’re kicking off a year-long series called Unemployment Vocabulary this week. If you do not work within the unemployment industry, some of the terminology utilized may be challenging to follow. It’s important to know the “lingo” to be sure that you understand what is going on within your company’s unemployment program. We’re going to start our series off with the basics – the parties involved in filing and processing an unemployment claim.


  • Claimant – A claimant is anyone who files an unemployment claim. They may or may not be totally unemployed. There are many circumstances which allow for partial unemployment benefits to be paid to employees working less than full time hours.
  • Last Employer – This is either the claimant’s current employer or the employer that they worked for most recently. The distinction between the last employer and other previous employers is important because it affects how benefits are charged to employer accounts, the amount that each employer is liable for and whether an employer is allowed to protest their liability or not.
  • Base Employer(s) – These are any additional employers that the claimant worked for prior to the last employer and during the base period of the claim. As stated above, the distinction between the last employer and base employers is an important one because if affects how the liability of a claim is divided among the employers. Upcoming blogs will provide greater clarity and depth on this point.
  • Third Party Administrator (TPA) – This is a company, such as Employers Edge, that acts as the agent of the employer and communicates with the state on behalf of the employer. The TPA will handle the processing of unemployment claims, organization and submittal of documentation and often provides professional representation to accompany the employer at unemployment hearings. A TPA is an employer agent and does not provide services to claimants.
  • Adjudicator – This is the state agency worker that reviews all of the information submitted by both the claimant and the employer and issues an initial level decision with regard to the claimant’s eligibility to collect as well as the employer’s chargeability on the claim. Adjudicators may conduct phone interviews (referred to within the industry as “adjudicator calls”) with the claimant or employer to request supplemental information that they feel is needed to render their decision.
  • Hearing Officer – Also referred to as a Referee or Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in certain states, this is the person that conducts and presides over unemployment hearings (either over the phone or in person). If either party appeals the Adjudicator’s initial level decision, a hearing is conducted to review the facts of the case with the parties involved. The Hearing Officer is the arbitrator charged with either upholding or overturning the Adjudicator’s decision. In some cases, a Hearing Officer may also decide that there are not enough facts to make a ruling and will remand the case back to the Adjudicator for additional fact finding.
  • Board of Review – If either party disagrees with the determination rendered by the Hearing Officer, there is one final level of┬áprotest available, which is an appeal to the Board of Review. This is a written appeal submitted by either the employer or the claimant. The Board of Review is tasked with reviewing the findings of Hearing Officers to determine whether or not the correct decision was made with regard to the claimant’s eligibility and the employer’s chargeability. Generally speaking, new evidence and testimony are not accepted by the Board of Review, and it is uncommong for the Board to overturn a Hearing Officer’s determination.