As the director of the administrative law judge program for the U.S. Coast Guard, Megan Allison stays busy day in and day out with various administrative law cases, daily briefings with Chief Administrative Law Judge Walter Brudzinski, and ensuring the program runs smoothly.
“As the director of the program, I’m managing the attorneys, managing the paralegals, and giving advice to the chief judge,” she said. “Every day is different.”
And with the oversight that Allison is responsible for, it’s easy to see how each day could bring different challenges. Allison, who has been with the Coast Guard for 12 years, oversees the entire administrative law program, which is responsible for conducting formal proceedings in the suspension or revocation of U.S. Merchant Mariner credentials to help promote safety at sea.
And through everything she does in her daily work Allison sets herself apart as a champion for civil rights, inclusion and equal opportunity. When asked what all of those things have in common and what she thinks about when she hears them, it ties in with a core value of every member of the U.S. Coast Guard: respect.
“It’s respecting people, it’s respecting humanity, it’s respecting your coworkers,” Allison said. “It’s amazing how you see so many diverse people, diverse backgrounds, whether it’s education or where you grew up, work together, and work together with respect, and work together as a team.”
Allison not only oversees the program’s civil rights training, she works to ensure the training is a top priority for every member of the program, even judges across the nation with heavy case loads. As a result, the program has maintained a 90 percent completion rate for annual civil rights training and continues to strive for 100 percent.
Even more notable, Allison revamped the hiring process within the program, to include people other than the senior staff. Allison said that while this change may seem minor, it’s actually extremely important, as it allows the support staff to be part of the process and also allows for different perspectives to be communicated and shared.
“I didn’t want to have the same two people interviewing people and making all those decisions, because I’m not in every office,” she said. “I like to make sure, whether you’re an attorney, whether you’re a paralegal, whether you’re admin, you give us that feedback. I respect my support staff and the job they’re doing and their opinions on who we’re going to bring onboard to work with them.”
And her efforts don’t go unnoticed. Those around her cite her exceptional leadership and desire for inclusion as two characteristics that set her apart from the typical managers.
“During my time in the military, private sector, and now the Coast Guard, I’ve worked with many competent leaders, but only a few exceptional individuals,” said John C. Johns, the managing attorney adviser at the Coast Guard’s administrative law judge docketing center in Baltimore. “Megan is one of those rare exceptional leaders.”
As such, she was recently recognized as a recipient of the 2015 Civil Rights Senior Leader awards. The award honors her as a leader who embodies the principles of civil rights/human rights, justice and equality, and has made tremendous contributions toward attaining an EEO/EO model program within her program.
“It’s a huge honor, and the honor is that I have colleagues that respected me,” said Allison. “You can never demand respect, but you can earn your peers’ respect. I’m very honored that they saw those values in me and respected me [and] felt they should put my name forward.”
Johns, who nominated Allison for the award, went on to describe her day-to-day interactions as one of the main reasons for his nomination.
“Understanding that people are what make a unit great, Megan constantly works at fostering a positive working environment within the ALJ Program,” he said. “Sometimes her actions are specific and purposeful, such as her efforts to standardize and improve our hiring process to include a more diverse hiring team. However, it is her day-to-day interactions with staff and her desire to see everyone around her grow, regardless of position or background, which separates her from the typical manager.”
And although her efforts have only shaped her own program so far, Allison knows how important these initiatives are for the entire service.
“When you look at the Coast Guard, at all the missions they do and how diverse they are…it’s absolutely amazing,” she said. “The diversity of people is going to give you a diverse viewpoint, diverse knowledge. It’s so valuable, and I think it makes us better as a whole agency, accomplishing the mission.
The Civil Rights Directorate’s mission ensures the U.S. Coast Guard’s commitment to equal employment opportunity, equal opportunity and a discrimination-free work environment is achieved. This goal requires the active participation and positive leadership from the entire workforce. Every year, CRD recognizes the stellar performance and contributions of leaders, civilian and Coast Guardsmen through its outreach and recognition program. To learn more about these award programs and submission requirements, go to the Coast Guard’s civil rights webpage.