Yes. There are numerous reasons to adjudicate your case within the Department of Labor. The DOL procedures are more informal and less costly than federal court procedures. Also, the DOL Administrative Law Judges are well-trained in whistleblower retaliation law, and the legal precedents within the Department of Labor are often as good, if not significantly better, then those in federal court.
For example, the DOL has excellent case-precedent on one-party taping. Thus, if you taped your employer and obtained evidence of retaliation on-tape, you may want to consider keeping your case within the DOL. The DOL also has good case law regarding communications with the press or public interest advocacy groups, whereas some courts have held that such communications are not protected. As with taping, communications with the news media, or other legal issues, it is possible to compare the case precedent developed within the DOL with the precedent that may be applicable in the local federal courts and make an informed decision as to the merits of a removal.
Also, the removal procedures permit a whistleblower to evaluate the quality of the judges that may hear a case. All of the decisions of the DOL ALJ’s are published on-line. Thus, a whistleblower can review the prior decisions of his or her judge before making a removal decision.
Costs are a big issue. The DOL cannot “sanction” an employee above $1000.00 for misconduct, and costs are never shifted to an employee. Additionally, trial transcripts can be obtained through the Freedom of Information Act at a reduced price.
Discovery procedures are more user-friendly within the DOL, but if a third-party subpoena is absolutely needed, you may have to remove the case to federal court.
The hearing process is much more informal, and hearsay evidence is generally admissible. The flexible and relaxed hearing procedures reduce costs and often make it far easier for employees to introduce the evidence they need to prevail in a case.
Finally, information obtained during the DOL process can be used at a federal court hearing. For example, discovery conducted during a DOL investigation or hearing can be used in federal court, as can witness testimony obtained during a hearing before a DOL ALJ. Thus, a whistleblower to take advantage of many of the DOL procedures, and still be able to remove a case to federal court, if needed.