The US Department of Labor’s chief administrative law judge (ALJ) issued an administrative order and notice on June 1, indefinitely suspending all in-person hearings before the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ). The indefinite suspension is due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which continues to cause travel and social proximity risks. Thus, for now, hearings will continue to be held by telephone or videoconference.
While in-person hearings are indefinitely suspended, as of June 1, procedural deadlines are no longer being tolled. As a result, the time to meet procedural deadlines is now running, and parties should take care to recalculate any procedural deadlines.
Indefinite Suspension of In-Person Hearings
The indefinite suspension of all in-person hearings follows the chief ALJ’s initial suspension of in-person hearings to May 15, which he later extended to July 24. We reported on both the initial suspension and the extension.
As a result of the June 1 order, all OALJ hearings will be conducted by telephone or video unless the presiding ALJ grants for “compelling reasons” a party’s motion for an in-person hearing. All scheduled in-person hearings are automatically converted to a phone or video hearing on the same day and at the same time as originally scheduled, unless the presiding ALJ orders otherwise. If the parties agree that an evidentiary hearing is not needed, they can move for a decision on stipulated facts or a stipulated record under 29 CFR 18.70(d).
Before the hearing, the presiding ALJ must inform the parties of the type of hearing (telephone or video) and provide the appropriate dial-in or videoconference information. The presiding ALJ must also provide the parties with procedures for filing prehearing submissions and exhibits. If a party finds that its preparations for the hearing have been frustrated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the party can move for a continuance under 29 CFR 18.41(b)(1).
The chief ALJ did not say when he will consider revoking this suspension, or what health metrics must be met before he will do so.
Procedural Deadlines No Longer Tolled
The chief ALJ’s March 19 and April 10 orders suspended and tolled procedural deadlines for currently pending matters before the OALJ. This suspension ended at the close of business on June 1. As a result, procedural deadlines now apply, and any deadline tolled under the earlier orders is calculated by adding the number of days remaining on March 23, 2020, to the period after June 1.
Under the example given in the April 10 order, if the deadline was April 17, which was 25 days after the procedural deadlines were suspended, the new deadline is June 26, so 25 days after the tolling period ended (June 1).
Coronavirus COVID-19 Task Force
For our clients, we have formed a multidisciplinary Coronavirus COVID-19 Task Force to help guide you through the broad scope of legal issues brought on by this public health challenge. Find resources on how to cope with the post-pandemic reality on our NOW. NORMAL. NEXT. page and our COVID-19 page to help keep you on top of developments as they unfold. If you would like to receive a daily digest of all new updates to the page, please subscribe now to receive our COVID-19 alerts, and download our biweekly COVID-19 Legal Issue Compendium.