You believe you have been discriminated against at work. So, you go to your local EEOC office and file a Charge of Discrimination. This gets the legal ball rolling. Then, not long after your charge is filed, you receive a notice from the EEOC asking if you are willing to participate in mediation in an attempt to resolve your dispute with your employer. Before you make that decision, it would be good to know what mediation is and how it works.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is simply a meeting of the parties involved in a dispute, along with a neutral person whose job it is to "mediate" between the parties to get things resolved so that everyone is happy. The purpose of mediation is never to determine who is at fault or whether your claims are legitimate. The purpose is to allow both sides the opportunity to explain their own position, and listen to the position of the other side.
Mediation is also meant to be a way for the employee to offer a proposal to the employer of what would be a fair resolution of the dispute. Usually, that resolution involves money. So determining and conveying to your employer the amount of money it would take to resolve the dispute, is necessary.
What is the Mediator's Job?
The mediator is always the neutral party. This means, the mediator does not make any decisions for either party, but instead merely passes along information to both sides in a neutral and non-confrontational manner. It remains the decision of the parties, whether or not the claims can be resolved in a way that both parties think is fair and reasonable.
What are the possible outcomes of mediation?
If you and your employer reach an agreement and the case can be resolved, the mediator is responsible for putting the agreement in writing. The agreement is then signed by you and your employer and it becomes a binding settlement agreement. This means your EEOC charge will no longer proceed through an investigation. It usually requires you, as the employee, to agree not to file a lawsuit in court against your employer for the same employment matters you raised in the EEOC charge.
However, if an agreement is not reached, the mediation ends. Anything that was discussed during the mediation session, including any offers that were made or refused, must be left behind. What goes on in mediation must remain confidential and it cannot be used in court in any way.
What if I'm unhappy with what my employer offers?
The reality is, the opposing parties in a mediation usually harbor negative feelings toward one another. Otherwise, there would be no dispute and there would be no need for a neutral mediator to help the parties to negotiate a resolution. Usually, the employment issues have become personal and the parties have become emotionally charged.
However, a mediation is not the time for expressing those feelings. As the employee, the best advice is to ignore any antagonistic behavior by your employer and, instead, focus on the financial risks and benefits that you face. If you remain positive, you will increase your chances of having a positive mediation experience and reaching a reasonable settlement with your employer.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding EEOC mediation or any other employment issues, contact Wrady & Michel, LLC either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.