Proactive disclosures

General information

General information about the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and implementation of FOIA by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is found at DOL’s main FOIA page and DOL’s Guide to Submitting Requests Under the Freedom of Information Act. DOL’s FOIA regulations are found at 29 C.F.R. Part 70 . The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy maintains a great deal of information about FOIA. The information below is specific to FOIA requests filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ).

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Where should I send my request?

In general

If you believe that OALJ has the records you seek, you should file your FOIA request with OALJ’s National Office in Washington, DC. FOIA requests filed with OALJ must be in writing, either handwritten or typed. No special form is required. It is helpful to be as specific as possible with regard to names, case numbers, etc. The FOIA coordinator in Washington DC will log the request and, if the requested document is not located in the National Office, forward the request to applicable district office.

FOIA Coordinator
Office of Administrative Law Judges
United States Department of Labor
800 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001-8002

Phone: (202) 693-7300
Fax: (202) 693-7365

You may contact OALJ’s FOIA coordinator Kristian Hinojosa (617-223-9355) if you have a question about your request.

Filing by email

FOIA requests filed by email are accepted only at foiarequests@dol.gov. This is a central FOIA email box maintained by DOL’s Office of Information Services (OIS). FOIA requests sent to any other DOL email addresses will not be accepted as a properly submitted request. FOIA requests emailed directly to OALJ will not be accepted. If you believe that OALJ has the records you are seeking, you should so note in your FOIA request to ensure that OIS knows to forward it to OALJ.

Filing with OALJ district offices

For some routine FOIA requests, it may be efficient to directly contact the applicable OALJ District Office. Please address such requests to the "FOIA Disclosure Officer."

Filing with office most likely to have custody of documents

Most FOIA requests received by OALJ relate to documents filed in hearings. Please note that whether OALJ has custody over the hearing record depends on the stage of the proceeding. For example, once a case is appealed, it is the appellate agency or federal court that would have custody of the file. Or, if an ALJ remands a case it will be the program agency (such as the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) or the Employment and Training Administration (ETA)) that has the file. Once a case is finally closed, whether OALJ has custody of the file depends on the program’s regulations. For example, files in black lung and longshore cases are maintained by OWCP. OALJ, however, may have custody over other types of cases files where it is the official custodian. Three years after all appeals on a case have been exhausted, OALJ transmits hearing records to a Federal Records Center. Here are links to Contact pages for agencies that may have custody of the files in common case areas:

Where a FOIA request is for documents that are within the custody of a different DOL agency, OALJ will forward the requests to OIS for reassignment.

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What can I request?

A FOIA request can be made for any agency record, including documents filed in public hearings. You should be aware, however, that the FOIA does not require agencies to do research for you, to analyze data, to answer written questions, or to create records in response to a request. OALJ will NOT conduct legal research for parties.

OALJ cannot honor requests for documents that have not yet been submitted to OALJ.

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What happens after I submit my request to OALJ?

When OALJ receives a FOIA request, it is logged, assigned a tracking number, and forwarded to the employee(s) most likely to have custody of the requested documents for that employee to conduct a search for responsive documents. If additional information from you is required to begin processing your request, OALJ will contact you. Once the OALJ has processed your request and any fee issues have been resolved, you will be sent written response which will usually include all documents that can be disclosed to you. The response letter will advise you of whether any information is being withheld pursuant to one or more of the nine exemptions to the FOIA. The letter might also include a notification that Congress provided special protection for three narrow categories of law enforcement records that are excluded from the FOIA and so are not part of the agency’s response. If pages of information have been withheld in full, we will ordinarily specify the number of pages being withheld or make a reasonable effort to estimate the volume of the withheld information. Where a page of a record is being withheld in part, the withheld portions of the page will ordinarily be specifically marked with the applicable exemptions.

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How long will it take before I get a response?

The time it takes to respond to each request varies depending on the complexity of the request itself and the backlog of pending requests. You should normally receive a response within twenty working days. Sometimes it takes longer. For example, some hearings involve very large records requiring review of thousands of pages of documents. Where the case is actively in an evidentiary hearing, it may not be possible to process a related FOIA request until the hearing ends or pauses. Where requested documents involve records archived at a Federal Records Center, it may take additional time to retrieve the record.

In ALJ hearings, it is not unusual for parties to file documents that are designated as confidential commercial or financial information protected from disclosure under FOIA Exemption 4. When FOIA requests are made for such documents, OALJ is required to provide predisclosure notices to the submitters pursuant to the procedures described in 29 C.F.R. § 70.26. This process can take months or longer depending on the scope of the request.

Often, delays can be avoided by discussing with OALJ FOIA personnel what type of information you are seeking. If a requester, for example, is only attempting to get a sample pleading to use as a template, it may not be necessary to request a copy of an entire record or set of records. OALJ encourages requesters to call OALJ FOIA personnel for assistance in fashioning their requests to get the information they need in the most efficient manner.

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If I am the attorney of record, do I have to make a FOIA request for records in my client’s case?

If you are the attorney of record, you may make a request for documents filed in your client’s case directly with the presiding ALJ, and do not have to file a FOIA request. Please note, however, that parties in hearings conducted by OALJ should be serving filings on each other and that the ALJ may require you to explain why you could not obtain the requested document from the party that filed it, your client, or if applicable, from the client’s prior law firm.

An attorney who is not representing a party of record will be required to file a FOIA request to obtain documents from a hearing record.

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Reading room materials and summary of materials available online

ALJ has published all ALJ decisions issued since the fall of 2000 on its website at www.oalj.dol.gov. Many older ALJ decisions are also available depending on the availability of legacy electronic databases. OALJ also hosts a set of Administrative Review Board decisions. Benefits Review Board decisions are found on the BRB website.

ALJ, ARB and BRB decisions may be located in several ways. The most common way to find decisions is to use OALJ’s full-text search engine. For ALJ decisions only, researchers who already know a party name, OALJ case number, or the date of the decision, can use the Document Management System ("DMS") search function. Researchers can also browse digests, judges’ benchbooks, and newsletters published on OALJ’s or the BRB’s websites to find applicable materials by topic.

The information below summarizes these options:

Administrative Staff Manuals and instructions to staff that affect a member of the public

Opinions and Orders made in the adjudication of cases