What is an Administrative Law Judge?:
An administrative law judge (ALJ) in the United States is an official who presides at an administrative trial-type hearing to resolve a dispute between a government agency and someone affected by a decision of that agency. The ALJ is usually the initial trier of fact and decision maker. ALJs can administer oaths, take testimony, rule on questions of evidence, and make factual and legal determinations.  ALJ-controlled proceedings are comparable to a bench trial, and, depending upon the agency's jurisdiction, may have complex multi-party adjudication, as is the case with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or simplified and less formal procedures, as is the case with the Social Security Administration.
NYSDHR Administrative Law Judges:
Preside at NYSDHR hearings and make decisions both as to the law governing the case and, additionally, take the place of a jury in a common litigation, by making determinations of fact as well.
Many attorneys advise their clients to expect substantially smaller awards of damages upon a victory in a NYSDHR hearing, as the Administrative Law Judge has a great deal of experience in the field of employment discrimination. This level of experience allows them to come to very accurate determinations of damages, often lacking the sympathy a jury might feel when determining an award of damages.