Labor and employment law are hot fields generally, and ones that increasingly rely on administrative forums to handle their caseloads. These are two additional areas in which a law license is not always necessary to represent participants, meaning that not only Juris Doctor (JD) graduates but also Executive Juris Doctor (EJD) graduates may find opportunities. (For a general introduction to the opportunities in administrative litigation for lawyers and non-lawyers alike, see the post "Opportunities for JDs and EJDs in Administrative Litigation: An Overview.")
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal antidiscrimination laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
Laws Enforced by the EEOC
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
- Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
- Sections 102 and 103 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991
- Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008
Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases). Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered.
The laws apply to virtually all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits.
EEOC investigates charges of discrimination against covered employers. If the agency finds that discrimination has occurred, it will first attempt to settle the charge. If that is unsuccessful, the agency can file a lawsuit to protect the rights of individuals and the interests of the public.
EEOC Administrative Judges conduct hearings on equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaints, and adjudicate appeals from administrative decisions made by federal agencies on EEO complaints.
Hearings are held in Washington, D.C., and in 53 field offices throughout the country.
Importantly, any qualified individual (attorney or non-attorney) may act as a Complainant's Representative before the EEOC.
In fiscal year 2013, the EEOC filed almost 94,000 charges of discrimination. The number of charges jumped substantially 5 years ago and have remained static since then. The largest number of cases allege race, sex, disability, or age discrimination.
U.S. Department of Labor Office of Administrative Law Judges
The Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ) hears cases concerning numerous labor-related matters, including black lung benefits and longshore workers' compensation, which constitute the largest part of the office's work. The OALJ also hears and decides cases arising from over 80 labor-related statutes and regulations, including:
- grants administration relating to training of the unskilled and economically disadvantaged
- civil rights
- alien labor certifications and attestations
- whistleblower complaints involving corporate fraud, nuclear, environmental, pipeline safety, aviation, and commercial trucking statutes
- minimum wage disputes
- enforcement actions involving the working conditions of migrant farm laborers
- disputes involving child labor violations
- hearings on mine safety variances
- OSHA formal rulemaking proceedings
- contract disputes
- civil fraud in federal programs
- employee polygraph tests
- certain recordkeeping required by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
- standards of conduct in union elections
OALJ is headquartered in Washington, D.C. Cases are heard throughout the country, at the Washington headquarters and in OALJ District Offices in:
- Boston, MA
- Cherry Hill, NJ
- Cincinnati, OH
- Covington, LA
- Newport News, VA
- Pittsburgh, PA
- San Francisco, CA
Representation before OALJ can be pro se, by counsel, or by other representative. Non-attorneys must submit an application to appear to the Chief Administrative Law Judge prior to the hearing or to the administrative law judge assigned at the commencement of the hearing. The application must state generally the applicant's qualifications to appear in the proceedings.
U.S. Department of Labor Administrative Review Board
The Administrative Review Board issues final agency decisions for the Secretary of Labor in cases arising under a wide range of worker protection laws, primarily involving environmental, transportation, and securities whistleblower protection; H-1B immigration provisions; child labor; employment discrimination; job training; seasonal and migrant workers; and federal construction and service contracts.
Both attorneys and non-attorneys may provide representation before the Board.