About settlement judges

A settlement judge proceeding is court-sponsored mediation by an administrative law judge familiar with the procedure and subject matter of U.S. Department of Labor adjudications, and trained in alternative dispute resolution techniques. The settlement judge is authorized to consult with the parties and assist them in resolving a dispute without the need for a formal administrative hearing.

Settlement judge conferences are off-the-record, and are relatively informal in comparison to the normal hearing process. The settlement judge adjusts his or her role to the circumstances of the case, and may act as a moderator, facilitator or intermediary. The settlement judge will focus on realistically assessing the prospects of each side to the dispute, the risks and costs of further litigation, the interests of the parties, and the benefits each side can gain through settlement. The settlement judge may meet with counsel both together and separately. Follow-up conferences may be conducted.

Settlement judges are strictly impartial and will not act as an advocate for any party—although he or she will undoubtedly be a determined advocate for settlement of the case. There is no guarantee, however, that a particular case will settle.  A settlement judge will not attempt to force any party to settle.

Settlement judge proceeding are based on the voluntary participation of the parties. If at any time a party no longer wishes to pursue the settlement judge process, the matter is referred back to the administrative law judge assigned to preside over the formal hearing.

The duration of the settlement judge's appointment is limited in order to prevent the settlement judge procedure from contributing to administrative delay, and to ensure that a formal proceeding will follow forthwith if a settlement is not reached. If the parties and the settlement judge agree that additional fruitful negotiations are possible, however, the settlement judge's appointment may be extended.

While a case is pending before the settlement judge, any requests for extensions of time for discovery or changes in a scheduling order must be presented to the presiding judge. The settlement judge is NOT empowered to grant extensions of time regarding the underlying proceeding.

In order to ensure confidentiality, once settlement proceedings commence, filings directed to the settlement judge must not be filed in the Department's eFile and eServe system (EFS) at efile.dol.gov or OALJ's e-mail e-filing system. Rather, submit those filings in the manner directed by the settlement judge.

How do I request a settlement judge conference?

To request a settlement judge conference, you may:

Send an email to the applicable district office:

Write or send a fax to the applicable district office:  

File through eFile and eServe (EFS)

You may also file a request for appointment of a settlement judge using the Department's eFile and eServe system (EFS) at efile.dol.gov.  Information on EFS is available at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/oalj/EFS.

As noted above, however, once settlement proceedings commence, filings directed to the settlement judge must not be filed in the EFS or OALJ's e-mail e-filing system.  Rather, submit those filings in the manner directed by the settlement judge.

When making the request, it is important that you:

  • Provide the OALJ Case Number (e.g., 2014-LHC-30000)
  • Provide the Request for Appointment of Settlement Judge form Word | PDF
  • State whether the other party or parties agree to the request
  • Provide the telephone, e-mail addresses, and/or fax numbers of the various representatives or pro se litigants so that the settlement judge appointment and conference can be facilitated