From harassment and sexual harassment to discrimination and retaliation, many federal employment cases handled by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) proceed to a “mediation” phase. As a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), mediation is a voluntary procedure in which both parties attempt to informally resolve a dispute with the assistance of a neutral third-party, who is known as a mediator.
Rather than determine who wins the case, the mediator helps the parties work out their differences and find a mutual resolution. Some of the benefits of mediation include resolving the dispute in an amicable and respectful manner, as well as avoiding a lengthy investigation and litigation process.
The following are the common steps of the EEOC mediation process:
- Both parties sign mediation agreement – The mediator will give a copy of the mediation agreement to each party. This agreement ensures all discussions at mediation remain confidential.
- The mediator explains the process – Before the start of the sessions, the mediator will detail how he/she will conduct the proceedings and open the floor to any questions. These three- to four-hour sessions are generally held in a conference room within federal premises.
- Both parties attempt to resolve their differences through confidential sessions – First, each party will provide an opening statement to explain their side of the story. Next, the parties will determine the merits of the complaint and any potential defenses the employer has available. The mediator will attempt to help both parties find a resolution or separate each party in individual meetings (i.e., caucus sessions). The mediator may go back and forth between the parties, informing each side of proposals or responses from one another.
- Both parties reach a written settlement agreement – The mediator will try to help the parties reach a resolution they both agree with. If both parties agree to the settlement terms, a written settlement agreement is drafted and entered into the record. This agreement is typically reviewed by each party’s attorney. Once the agreement is signed, the EEO complaint is withdrawn.
If both parties cannot resolve their dispute through mediation, then they will undergo the investigation process, followed by litigation. Both parties may bring a lawyer with them to the mediation sessions; however, the mediator will determine what role the lawyers will perform during the sessions.
If you are a federal employee facing an employment issue in Atlanta, Baltimore, or Houston, contact Pines Federal today at (800) 801-0598 to learn how we can help. Get over five decades of collective legal experience on your side!