If you received a determination or order from the D.C. Department of Employment Services (DOES) Office of Wage-Hour Compliance regarding unpaid wages, living or minimum wage, overtime, sick or safe leave, or retaliation related to wage/hour laws, or if OWH has not issued an initial determination within 60 days of a complaint, you may have the right to file an appeal with the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).
The purpose of this page is to help you learn more about wage and hour disputes and the OAH hearing process. This page does not give legal advice. You can only get legal advice from a lawyer. If you are trying to find a lawyer, click on the “I need more help” tab below for information on who you can contact.
Also, OAH tries to keep information on this page up to date, but laws and procedures sometimes change. You should refer to DOES and OWH notices, OAH orders, and official sources of laws and rules for current information and requirements regarding your case.
How do I request a hearing?
OAH can only hear a case in the following situations:
- an employee files a wage/hour complaint with the Office of Wage-Hour Compliance (OWH), and OWH issues an initial determination or administrative order (except for an order issued as a result of conciliation), or OWH fails to issue an initial determination within 60 days of the complaint
- OWH completes an audit on an employer and issues an order imposing a penalty for an alleged violation.
To request a hearing, you need to file two things with OAH:
- The completed hearing request form. OWH provides a copy of the hearing request form with an appealable determination, order, or notice. You must also send a copy of the completed form to OWH.
- A copy of the determination, order, or notice you are appealing. If OWH gave you an initial determination or administrative order, you must file a copy of that determination or order. If you want to request a hearing because OWH has not issued a determination or order by the 60-day deadline, you must file the “Notice of Right to Formal Hearing” or other written notice you received from OWH informing you of your right to request an OAH hearing.
Visit the Filings & Forms page for detailed filing instructions. You must file the hearing request with OAH within 30 days of the issuance of the determination, order, or notice.
What are the OAH Rules and where can I find them?
The OAH Rules explain all the steps required to complete the OAH hearing process, from requesting a hearing to appealing a judge’s final decision. You can find the OAH Rules on the Rules & Laws page. You must follow the OAH Rules throughout the process.
All the rules that apply to wage and hour cases are in Chapter 28. The table of contents for Chapter 28 can help guide you to the information you need.
Where can I find laws and regulations that apply to my case?
Every case has its own facts and circumstances, so some cases may involve laws and regulations that are not listed on this page. However, the D.C. Code and the D.C. Municipal Regulations (DCMR) generally cover wage-hour cases.
The D.C. Code is where you can find District laws that create wage and hour requirements. Within the bounds of those laws, the Department of Employment Services may then make regulations creating specific requirements and procedures. Regulations are often more detailed than laws, but laws have more authority. If there is a discrepancy between a law and a regulation, the law applies. When a judge decides a case at OAH, he or she may apply both laws and regulations to reach a final decision.
The laws that cover wage and hour disputes are in the following titles and chapters of the D.C. Code:
- Wage payment and collection and retaliation laws are in Title 32, Chapter 13, Subchapter I
- Minimum wage and overtime laws are in Title 32, Chapter 10, Subchapter I
- Living wage laws are in Title 2, Chapter 2, Subchapter X-A
- Sick and safe leave laws are in Title 32, Chapter 5, Subchapter III
OWH administers D.C.’s wage and hour laws as part of the Department of Employment Services (DOES), the agency responsible for making regulations implementing D.C.’s wage and hour compliance program. OWH must follow these regulations when processing complaints and enforcing wage and hour laws. Wage and hour regulations are in the following title and chapters of the DCMR:
- Wage payment/collection and minimum wage regulations are in Title 7, Chapter 9
- Living wage regulations are in Title 7, Chapter 10
- Sick and safe leave regulations are in Title 7, Chapter 32
It can be helpful to navigate to the relevant title and chapter numbers in the D.C. Code and DCMR and look at the subchapter and section headings. The headings can help guide you to the particular sections that apply to the issues in your case.
If you are having difficulty finding or understanding laws or regulations that may apply to your case, click on the “I need more help” tab below for more information about who you can contact for help.
Can federal wage laws apply to my case?
Federal wage and hour laws do not directly apply to OAH cases. Federal laws, which are in the Fair Labor Standards Act, are administered at the federal level by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor. Visit the Wage and Hour Division’s Wages and the Fair Labor Standards Act webpage to learn more.
OAH judges only apply the D.C. wage and hour laws, which are generally more expansive than federal laws. For example, D.C. has a higher minimum wage than what is required by federal law. Also, D.C. has specific laws for wage payment and collection, which do not have an equivalent in federal law.
Also, while federal laws do not directly apply in OAH cases, they may still be helpful in cases involving minimum wage and overtime. The FLSA is similar to D.C.’s minimum wage and overtime laws, so federal regulations and case law interpreting the FLSA could persuade an OAH judge to interpret D.C.’s minimum wage and overtime laws in a certain way.
How do I prepare for a hearing?
After you file a hearing request, OAH will mail you a “scheduling order” that tells you when your hearing will be. OAH will also email it to you if you put your email address on the Appeal Form.
The judge may first schedule a “status hearing,” also called a “status conference.” The purpose of a status hearing is for the judge to meet with the parties to generally talk about the issues in the case, the possibility of the parties settling the case, the exchange of documents and information, and next steps. The scheduling order will explain the purpose of a status hearing, but there often is not much preparation needed for an initial status hearing.
If needed, the case will eventually be scheduled for an “evidentiary hearing.” The purpose of the evidentiary hearing is for each side to give “evidence” to support their side of the case. The scheduling order for an evidentiary hearing will have specific instructions, but hearing preparation generally involves each side collecting the information they want the judge to know and planning how to present the information during the hearing.
Information you present during a hearing is called “evidence.” There are two broad categories of evidence:
- Verbal testimony (what you and other witnesses say at the hearing)
- Documents, photographs, or other physical items
For testimony, you can practice telling your side of the story before the hearing. If you have witnesses that will testify on your behalf, you can ask your witnesses to practice their testimony as well. Practicing your testimony can help make sure you and your witnesses don’t accidentally leave out important information and can help you feel more comfortable on the day of the hearing.
If a witness won’t agree to come to a hearing voluntarily, you can ask the judge for a “subpoena.” A subpoena is a court order that requires someone to come to a hearing or provide documents. Visit the Subpoena Request page for more information about the subpoena process.
Documents, photographs, or other items you plan to use to support your case are called “exhibits.” You should collect all your exhibits before the hearing so that you can file a copy of the exhibit with OAH and “serve” a copy on the other party by the deadline given in the scheduling order. “Serving” means delivering, mailing, or faxing a copy of the exhibit to the other party. You can also serve exhibits by email if you and the other party have agreed in writing to allow service by email. You can find the contact information for the other party at the end of the scheduling order, on the page called “Certificate of Service.”
If you know that the other party, or a person or organization related to the case, has important documents about the facts in the case, but they will not give you copies of the documents, you can ask the judge for a “subpoena” that will require them to do so. You can also ask the judge to allow “discovery.” Discovery is the formal process of getting information from an opposing party. Discovery generally is not needed or permitted in most OAH hearings, but it may be an option if you have a good reason. Visit the Subpoena Request and Discovery Request pages for more information about these processes.
Also, as you prepare exhibits, keep in mind that OAH is a separate agency from OWH. That means that OAH does not automatically have copies of anything OWH sends you or any of OWH’s records. To use those documents at the hearing, you still need to file copies with OAH.
You should also keep in mind that properly filing and serving an exhibit does not automatically mean that the judge can rely on the information in the exhibit when making a decision. Instead, you need to be prepared to introduce the exhibit during your testimony or a witness’s testimony. In other words, you or a witness will need to describe the item and may need to answer questions about it, so that the judge can be satisfied that the item is relevant to the case and is reliable. After you or a witness describe an exhibit and answer any questions from the judge or the other party, you can then ask the judge to admit the exhibit into evidence. If the judge allows the exhibit into evidence, you can then refer to the item in detail during your testimony, and the judge can rely on the item when making a decision. You need to be prepared for this process for each individual exhibit.
Here are some of the common OAH Rules that apply to hearing preparation: Rule 2809 (Filing of Papers); Rule 2811 (How to Serve a Paper); Rule 2812 (Calculating Deadlines); Rule 2813 (Motions Procedure); Rule 2821 (Hearings and Evidence). Other rules may apply, so it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the OAH Rules’ table of contents so that you know where to go to look for particular requirements. The OAH Rules are on the Rules & Laws page.
How do I send documents or other exhibits I want to use for my case?
All exhibits must be filed with OAH and served on the other party.
You can file exhibits with OAH in person; by mail, email, or fax; or through the OAH E-Filing Portal. Visit the Filings & Forms page for specific filing instructions.
“Serving” means delivering, mailing, or faxing copies of your exhibits to the other party. If the other party has agreed in writing, you may also send exhibits by email.
Each party must file and serve exhibits by the deadline given in the scheduling order to make sure both sides have opportunity to review all the documents and other items the other side intends to use to support their case.
If you do not know the contact information for the other party, look at the “Certificate of Service” at the end of the scheduling order you receive from OAH. The Certificate of Service lists the contact information for each party.
What can I expect at a hearing?
You should look closely at your scheduling order for information about how your hearing will be held, but many OAH hearings are currently remote and are scheduled to take place by telephone. OAH uses a program called Webex to hold remote hearings, but only a phone is required for anyone to join. Visit the Webex Hearings page for more information about joining a remote hearing by phone.
If you are scheduled for a telephone hearing, you can request a video hearing or an in-person hearing, using the Request for Video Conference or In-Person Hearing form. Or, if you are scheduled for an in-person hearing, you can request to join the hearing by phone, using the Request to Participate by Telephone form.
Whether remote or in person, an evidentiary hearing is generally divided into three main parts:
- Opening statements
- Presentations of evidence
- Closing arguments
An opening statement is not required but is your chance to give the judge a broad overview of your case and what you intend to prove through your evidence. The opening statement is not testimony and does not count as evidence, however. So, remember to present all of your evidence during the next part of the hearing, even if you talked about it already in your opening statement.
The presentation of evidence is the main part of the hearing. The judge will explain how the hearing will go before it begins, but the side with the “burden of proof” often goes first when giving evidence. The side with the burden of proof must present sufficient evidence to prove their side. If they can’t, then the other side wins. In most wage, hour, and sick/safe leave cases, the employee has the burden to prove their side, but the burden can shift to the employer if the employer failed to keep adequate records or if the employee presents evidence sufficient to show, by “just and reasonable inference,” the amount or extent of work done or the compensation due for work done. See D.C. Code § 32-1308.01(e)(4) (this same standard applies to wage payment/collections, minimum wage/overtime, living wage, and sick/safe leave cases).
In a case against an employer following an OWH audit, the burden of proof is on the agency to prove that the alleged violations occurred.
When it is your turn to present evidence, you can give testimony and, if the judge allows your exhibits into evidence, talk about the documents or other items you have as evidence. (See “How do I prepare for hearing?” above for more explanation about how exhibits are admitted into evidence). You can also have your witnesses attend and ask them questions to get them to testify on your behalf. Asking questions of your own witnesses is called “direct examination.”
After you or a witness are done giving testimony, the other side can ask questions about the testimony that was given. This is called “cross examination.” Likewise, after the other side’s witnesses give testimony as part of their presentation of evidence, you will have the opportunity to ask them questions. However, neither side is required to ask cross examination questions, and the judge will not assume you agree with the testimony of the other side’s witnesses if you choose not to question them. Also, if you choose to cross examine a witness, you’re allowed to ask questions requiring a yes or no answer, so you can ask the witness to agree or disagree with facts that you present. But if the witness responds unfavorably to a question, the judge may credit that testimony and it may hurt your case. Parties typically cross examine an opposing witness only when confident that answers will help the party’s case.
The judge may also have questions for the parties and witnesses throughout the hearing.
Finally, after both sides have presented their evidence, each side can give a closing argument. A closing argument is not required but is your opportunity to summarize your evidence and legal arguments as to why you should win. The closing argument is not evidence, and you cannot introduce new exhibits during your closing or talk about information that was not admitted into evidence.
Throughout the process, keep in mind that all evidence and arguments are being given directly to the judge. An evidentiary hearing is not an opportunity for the parties to talk and argue between themselves. So, you should practice your opening statement, presentation of evidence, and closing argument as if you are speaking directly to the judge.
I do not speak English very well. Can I get an interpreter?
Yes. Upon request, OAH will provide a free court-certified interpreter at your hearing. You cannot have a friend or family member interpret for you during a hearing.
You may request an interpreter when you file your initial hearing request, or you may request an interpreter at any other time by calling OAH at (202) 442-9094 or by emailing [email protected]. But please let OAH know as soon as possible that you need an interpreter for your hearing to give OAH time to schedule an interpreter.
If you have not requested an interpreter by the day of your hearing, you should let the judge know that you need an interpreter, and the judge can try to get an interpreter. If the judge cannot find an interpreter right away, the judge will need to reschedule the hearing to give time for OAH to schedule an interpreter for a new hearing date.
will also provide an interpreter if you need to speak with an OAH Customer Service Representative or Resource Center staff, whether visiting in person or calling OAH by phone. Simply ask for an interpreter and identify your language when you visit or call, and OAH staff will contact an interpreter to assist.
I have an impairment that makes it hard for me to attend a hearing. Can I get an accommodation?
Yes. Upon request, OAH will provide reasonable accommodations to allow you to participate in your hearing. You may request an accommodation when you file a hearing request, or you may request an accommodation at any other time by calling OAH at (202) 442-9094 or by emailing [email protected].
Please explain the accommodation you need, and OAH staff will be in touch with you to arrange reasonable accommodations for the day of your hearing. OAH may need some time to arrange the accommodations, so please let OAH know as soon as possible what accommodations you will need for your hearing.
What if I need to change my hearing date?
You may ask the judge in writing for a different hearing date, also called a “continuance.”
For this type of request, you must first reach out to the other party to see if they will agree to a different hearing date. The other party doesn’t have to agree, or even respond. But you at least need to make a good faith effort to get the other party’s consent.
You then must file your request with OAH and send a copy of the request to the other party. To make sure you give OAH all the information needed for this type of request, you may use the Request for a Different Hearing Date form.
You should never assume that a request is granted. If your hearing date is approaching and you have not received a written response, contact the OAH Clerk’s Office to see if the judge has acted on your request. If the judge has not acted on the request by your hearing date, then the hearing will be held as originally scheduled and you will be required to attend.
OAH Rule 2813 has more information about filing case-related requests, also called “motions.” The OAH Rules are on the Rules & Laws page.
What if I miss my hearing?
If you missed your hearing, and you still want a hearing, you must ask for a new hearing date in writing as soon as possible. Even if the judge sends a Final Order in the other party’s favor before you file your request, the judge can still grant a new hearing and change the final order. However, you must give a good reason for having missed the hearing. To make a request, you may complete the Request for a New Hearing form and file the form with OAH and serve a copy on the other party.
OAH Rule 2828 explains more about this type of request. OAH Rule 2813 has more information about filing case-related requests, also called “motions.” The OAH Rules are on the Rules & Laws page.
How does a judge make a final decision?
The judge will not make a final decision about your case during the evidentiary hearing. Rather, the judge will take time after the hearing to carefully consider all the evidence before making a final decision in writing. The judge’s written decision is called a “final order.” The final order will be sent to all parties to the case and will explain the facts of the case as determined by the judge, the laws that apply to the case, and the judge’s legal conclusions based on how the law applies to the facts.
The final order will also explain your appeal rights, in case you disagree with the judge’s decision.
What can I do if I disagree with a judge’s final order?
If you disagree with a final order, you may either:
- ask the OAH judge to reconsider the decision or grant relief from the final order, or
- file an appeal with the D.C. Court of Appeals.
Visit the Closed Case Forms page, under “Filings & Forms,” for more information and instructions.
I need more help.
If you are looking for limited legal advice, you can visit the Washington Lawyers’ Committee Employment Justice webpage. This page has information about the Workers’ Rights Clinic and a link to the Workers’ Rights Manual with comprehensive legal information for employment-related issues, including wage and hour issues.
If you are trying to find a lawyer to represent you, there are a few resources to help your search:
- D.C. Bar’s Hiring a Lawyer webpage. This page includes directories and other general guidance on finding a lawyer.
- Bar Association of the District of Columbia (BADC) Lawyer Referral Service. You can select practice areas on the webpage to find a list of lawyers, or call BADC at 202-223-6600.
- General internet search for labor and employment lawyers.
If you cannot find a lawyer or choose to represent yourself, you may talk with someone in the OAH Resource Center. Please call (202)-442-9094 and press “4” from the main menu, or send an email to [email protected]. The OAH Resource Center cannot give legal advice or be your lawyer, but our staff are happy to answer questions and give general information about wage and hour laws and the OAH hearing process.