As an employment law mediator, my resume includes many years of private practice and service to some federal courts. But I cut my chops at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and have remained a volunteer mediator with the EEOC for over a decade.
If anyone asked me what I thought of the EEOC’s Mediation Program, I would’ve told employers and employees alike to embrace it as an effective way to resolve employment disputes without the time, cost, and risk associated with litigation.
But no one asked me.
Instead, however, the EEOC yesterday announced that two new independent studies report overwhelming satisfaction with the EEOC’s mediation program and a successful transition from in-person to online mediation because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here’s more from the release:
According to the first study, more than nine out of 10 participants (98% of employers and 92% of charging parties) indicated that they would be willing to participate in the EEOC’s mediation program again if they were a party to an EEOC charge. A majority of participants (nearly 70%) reported that they would prefer online mediation to in-person mediation in the future. Participants cited flexibility, convenience, cost savings, and a “safe space” as reasons for preferring online mediation.
The second study, reported that EEOC mediators found that online mediation is easier to use and more flexible than in-person mediation; achieved similar or better quality and value of settlements for both parties; and increased access to justice for charging parties.
Since this is my blog, and I can type whatever I want (fart!), I suppose that I should offer my two cents.
As an advocate for employers, I generally engage with EEOC staff mediators and other trained pro bono mediators who treat the process with the respect and pragmatism that it deserves. In what is often the closest my clients will get to their day in court, clients get the catharsis of telling their story to an attentive, empathetic audience. These EEOC mediators then help refocus the process towards resolution, which usually results in paying much less than it would have cost to defend a lawsuit, let alone pay a jury verdict.
As a mediator, am I surprised that parties have embraced the process and the transition from in-person to online mediation? Heck no!
It’s tough to overestimate the convenience of mediating from the home or office (or, quite frankly, anywhere quiet with a stable internet connection).
Cynics (anecdotally, mostly people with more gray hair than me) would say that not being able to look a party straight in the eyes in person would undermine the mediator’s effectiveness. That’s crap. It’s much easier for the mediator to connect with a party when they are more comfortable in their choice of surroundings — the so-called “safe space.”
I could go on gushing about EEOC mediation, but the bottom line is I wholeheartedly endorse it as a low-cost alternative dispute resolution tool. The mediation itself is free. It only costs you time and attorney’s fees, both of which you save through remote mediation versus having it in person.
For those interested in learning more about mediation, please do not hesitate to ask me questions. And if you’d like to take your mediation game to the next level, I offer mediation training for employers and insurance carriers. You can email me about that too.