Is this fear warranted? >>>
No. GO TO THE APPEAL!!! GO TO THE APPEAL!!! GO TO THE APPEAL!!! Hopefully someone got through to you on that point.
In the 1980s we had an employee pulled over DUI, punched out the cop, and basically was no-call, no-show, vanished from the face of the earth for 3 months. He claims he had no way of contacting us even though we had employees whom he called whom told us what was happening. We terminated him for violating "no-show, no-call" policy. KISS. He filed for UI, we challenged him. At the last minute my boss decided to attend. My boss would not shut up. He would not listen to the ALJ. He lectured the ALJ on how to do his (the ALJ's job). We managed to lose a slam dunk case. If the ALJ could have put my boss in prison, he would have.
There are no sure things here, but failing to show is about as sure thing as it gets. It means only the other side presents their version of the "facts". Past that LISTEN to the ALJ and do what he/she says. If you have paper, make 2 copies. Be nice. Do not use 10 words when 2 will do. Less is more. The ALJ is like a bus driver. They have heard everything twice and they will side with whoever does not p*** them off. Your version of the facts sound fine, but your former employer can always use the "liar, liar, pants on fire" gambit. This is why you want the ALJ to like you. The easiest way to do that is not waste their time or treat them like an idiot.