OALJ Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) refers to any procedure, agreed to by the parties to a dispute, in which they call upon the services of a neutral party to assist them in reaching agreement and thus avoiding formal litigation.
OALJ Settlement Judge Program
One of the Department of Labor's most active ADR programs is the Office of Administrative Law Judges' (OALJ) settlement judge program. A settlement judge is an administrative law judge familiar with the procedure and subject matter of 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.
Most cases docketed before OALJ are eligible for appointment of a settlement judge. Two exceptions are black lung claims and applications for permanent alien labor certification -- neither of which are susceptible to settlement.
OALJ has experienced a high success rate of cases settling through the settlement judge process, and the demand for settlement judges is increasing. While reasonable efforts will be made to accommodate such requests and for specific dates for settlement conferences, OALJ cannot guarantee that requests for specific judges will be granted.
Settlement judges are not available for cases outside the jurisdiction of OALJ. Thus, for example, a settlement judge will not be appointed in longshore workers' compensation cases still pending before the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs. Similarly, since OALJ is not involved in adjudication of FECA claims, settlement judges are not available for that program.
The settlement judge procedure is voluntary. Thus, all parties to a dispute must agree to the appointment of a settlement judge.
To learn more about settlement judges, visit OALJ's Settlement Judge page.
Traditional Settlement Techniques
Even before the Department of Labor had a formal settlement judge program, administrative law judges used a number of techniques to promote settlements, such as early prehearing exchanges, calendar calls in which settlement possibilities are discussed, and opportunities for discussion immediately prior to a hearing. See, e.g., 29 C.F.R. § 18.8(a)(2)(v). All of these techniques continue to be viable, even with the availability of the formal settlement judge ADR procedure.