Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)

An independent hearing examiner who presides at an administrative hearing. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) has the power to administer oaths, receive evidence, take testimony, and make initial findings of fact or law. An ALJ’s findings are subject to review and modification by agency heads. An ALJ may also be referred to as a:

  • Hearing examiner.

  • Hearing officer.

  • Trial examiner.

ALJs who work in federal government agencies are appointed under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. § 556-557, and 5 C.F.R. 930.201-211. Federal agencies such as the Merit Systems Protection Board ( www.practicallaw.com/9-576-1467) (MSPB) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ( www.practicallaw.com/4-501-5853) (EEOC) also employ Administrative Judges (AJs), who perform many of the same functions as ALJs but are not appointed under the APA.

ALJs from the United States Department of Labor's Office of Administrative Law Judges preside over formal hearings concerning many labor-related matters including claims related to:

  • Civil rights.

  • Alien labor certifications and attestations.

  • Whistleblower complaints involving corporate fraud, nuclear, environmental, pipeline safety, aviation and commercial trucking statutes.

  • Minimum wage disputes.

  • OSHA formal rulemaking proceedings.

  • Contract disputes.

  • Civil fraud in federal programs.

  • Employee polygraph tests.

  • Certain recordkeeping required by ERISA.

  • Standards of conduct in union elections.

Administrative Law Judges that preside over unemployment insurance hearings and appeals are quasi-judicial agents housed in the Department of Labor, but their decisions are autonomous from the Department of Labor’s decisions.

The MSPB's Office of the Administrative Law Judge presides over selected cases brought by the Office of Special Counsel ( www.practicallaw.com/9-576-2645) (OSC) and appeals of personnel actions taken against other ALJs and MSPB employees.

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