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Joseph L. Hayes Sr., former director of VEC’s Administrative Law Division, dies at 85

8/9/2018, 6 a.m.
Joseph Lewis Hayes Jr. initially set out to become a pharmacist. Along the way, he switched to legal studies and ...
Joseph L. Hayes Sr.

Joseph Lewis Hayes Jr. initially set out to become a pharmacist. Along the way, he switched to legal studies and eventually became one of the leading experts on the laws regarding unemployment benefits.

The Richmond native began his journey in this area after graduating from law school and finding work as a hearing officer at the Virginia Employment Commission, where he heard cases mostly involving individuals challenging employers’ denial of their unemployment benefits following firings or layoffs.

Mr. Hayes rose to become the first African-American to serve as chief senior administrative law judge and director of VEC’s Administrative Law Division. His decisions on cases upholding or denying benefits set precedents that stand today.

“He was meant for the law,” said his daughter, Lizbeth T. Hayes-Mackey, director of the Virginia Office of Fair Housing. “He was deliberative, even-keeled, reasonable and rational, rather than emotional.”

After retiring from the VEC in 1995 after 37 years, he opened his own consulting firm. For nearly 20 years, he represented both individuals and companies in VEC cases and also was hired by companies to provide education and training to their employees.

Mr. Hayes died Wednesday, July 25, 2018, at a Richmond area hospital. He was 85.

Family and friends will celebrate his life 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, at the church where he was a longtime member, St. Philip’s Episcopal, 2900 Hanes Ave. in North Side. The program, to be officiated by the church’s rector, the Rev. Phoebe Roaf, will be preceded by a Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity (The Boulé) memorial service at 10 a.m.

Born in Richmond in 1932, Mr. Hayes grew up in Jackson Ward. After graduating from Armstrong High School, he earned an undergraduate degree at Virginia Union University and began pharmacy studies at Howard University, while also planning a pharmacy business, his family said.

He left Howard to earn his law degree at the Northern Virginia School of Law, which no longer exists. After serving three years in the Army, he returned to Richmond and joined the VEC staff. After retiring, he maintained his consulting firm until about two years ago, his daughter said.

Mr. Hayes also was a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Hayes is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Frances Teele Hayes; his son, Joseph L. Hayes III; and a granddaughter.

The family requests that memorial contributions be made to St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in support of a recently developed community garden and green space.