When a terminated or current employee makes a claim against his or her employer, it is generally in the interest of both parties to attempt to resolve the matter early through mediation. In mediation, one of our experienced mediator meets with the parties to help them resolve their dispute. The involvement of a mediator greatly increases the chance of a resolution by helping the parties open communications to focus on their real interests in attempting to find a resolution that meets the needs of both sides. Neither party is required to accept any recommendation that the mediator might make for settlement. Any settlement and its terms are entirely subject to the parties’ agreement and the entire process is confidential.
Disputes between a company and its employees can arise in several different contexts. An existing employee may contend that supervisory personnel have harassed them. An employee terminated or denied promotion may contend that such employment action constitutes discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability. Lastly, a terminated employee may allege that he or she has been wrongfully terminated and that the termination was unfair or without good cause.
An employer can be held liable if supervisors harass workers even if the employee does not report harassment and suffers no tangible loss. The employee does not have to prove the employer was negligent. The use of mediation is one way that a company’s efforts to address these complaints will be considered reasonable.
Employment disputes grow out of relationships. There are many issues that need to be addressed other than just legal issues. Existing dispute resolution mechanisms did not address the full range of issues and conflicts that surface in these disputes. Each party in the relationship has particular needs. The employee may need a process that is expeditious and not financially costly. He or she may also need the ability to make a complaint without everyone in the company knowing about it. He or she may need to know that they are being listened to and taken seriously and will not be retaliated against. The last thing an employee wants to do when complaining about harassment or discrimination is to isolate themselves from his/her co-workers or supervisors.
On the other hand, employers often feel that discrimination and/or harassment complaints are unjustified and that they are “wrongly accused.” They often come into mediation with the attitude that they are being taken advantage of. As a result, they are unwilling to enter into any type of settlement. The mediation process allows them to vent these issues and to gradually see the dispute in a more impartial way, and to make good business decisions on how to resolve it. Mediation also allows the necessary expression of the emotional aspects of the conflict and provides a framework for creative problem solving. The parties are encouraged to consider creative remedies such as training, job modification, letters of reference, letters of apology, or new open channels of communication in resolving these complaints, especially when they involve currently employed co-workers.