Commissioner’s Review Office
The Commissioner’s Review Office is responsible for issuing final legal Decisions of Commissioner in unemployment-insurance benefits and tax cases.
A case originates from a written determination issued by the department. An employer or benefits claimant dissatisfied with the department’s determination may appeal to the Office of Administrative Hearings. An administrative law judge holds a hearing at which the parties submit their documentary evidence and testimony. The administrative law judge then enters a written initial order containing the administrative law judge’s findings of fact, conclusions of law and decision. A party dissatisfied with the initial order may then file a petition for review with the Commissioner’s Review Office. The case is then assigned to a Review Judge. The review judges at the Commissioner’s Review Office are delegates of the Commissioner and, thus, their decisions are issued on behalf of the Commissioner. The Chief Review Judge of the Commissioner’s Review Office reports directly to the Commissioner. Moreover, the review judges at the Commissioner’s Review Office decide cases independently and free from any undue influence of other divisions in the department.
Review judges in the Commissioner’s Review Office conduct a thorough review of the entire record of the legal proceedings held by the administrative law judge, including all testimony and documentary evidence, as well as the administrative law judge’s findings of fact, conclusions of law and decision. The purpose of this comprehensive review is to assure (1) compliance with the requirements of the Washington Administrative Procedure Act, Title 34.05 RCW, (2) accurate findings of fact based on the evidence, and (3) proper application to the facts of the complex laws governing unemployment-insurance benefits and taxation, as codified in the Washington Employment Security Act, Title 50 RCW. The result of the review process is a final, written Decision of Commissioner issued by the Commissioner’s Review Office.
The Administrative Procedure Act allows a party dissatisfied with a final Decision of Commissioner to petition the Washington state courts for further review. Petitions for judicial review are filed in a small percentage of cases decided by the Commissioner’s Review Office. In recent years the courts have affirmed the Decision of Commissioner in approximately 85 percent of cases.
At the same time, the US Department of Labor has ranked the performance of our Commissioner’s Review Office among the top few state review offices in the nation for timeliness of decisions. This reflects the seriousness and hard work with which review judges and staff approach their roles in administration of justice for the hundreds of thousands of benefit claimants and employers involved in our state’s unemployment-insurance system.
The Commissioner’s Review Office also publishes carefully selected Precedential Decisions of Commissioner in accordance with state law RCW 50.32.095. The precedential decisions establish principles of unemployment-insurance law that the Employment Security and administrative law judges at the Office of Administrative Hearings must abide by.