If you have been discriminated against at work, the first formal step in the legal process is to file a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This is necessary regardless of whether you have filed an informal complaint with your employer or it’s Human Resources Department. Once that charge has been filed, it is very common for the EEOC to ask if you want to participate in mediation as an effort to resolve your employment dispute without the need for litigation. Mediation is entirely voluntarily. Here is what you need to know before you decide:
How does mediation work?
Mediation is basically a meeting of the parties involved in a dispute, moderated by a neutral person who does not have any interest in the outcome of the dispute. The mediator is responsible for facilitating a resolution that all of the parties can agree with. The goal is not to determine fault as to the discrimination claims, but instead to give the parties a chance to explain their positions to each other in a less adversarial situation.
Another purpose of mediation is to allow the parties to disclose to one another what it would take to resolve the case before going to court. Resolution of an employment discrimination case nearly always includes a monetary award or settlement. So, mediation allows the parties to negotiate a settlement without the pressures of litigation and with the assistance of a neutral mediator.
What happens if mediation is successful?
If you are successful in reaching a settlement during an EEOC mediation, the mediator will draft a written agreement memorializing the settlement terms. You and an authorized representative of your employer will sign the agreement, making it binding. A successful mediation and settlement agreement mean that your EEOC charge will no longer be investigated by the EEOC. It also means that you must agree not to file a lawsuit against your employer for the specific claims that you raised and that have now been resolved.
On the other hand, if mediation is not successful and your dispute cannot be resolved, you can still rest assured that anything that was discussed at mediation will remain confidential. That includes any settlement offers that were made. No statements made at mediation can be used against either party during subsequent litigation either.
Be sure to keep your feelings in check during mediation
It should not be surprising that the opposing parties in an employment discrimination matter will have negative feelings toward one another. In most cases, employment discrimination
issues are personal and emotional in nature. But, it is important to remember that mediation is not the time to express those negative feelings. It is wise to simply ignore any antagonistic actions your employer may engage in during mediation. Instead, you must focus on the goal of mediation, to settle your dispute and resolve your problems. By remaining positive, you will more likely have a positive mediation experience.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding EEOC mediation or any other employment issues, contact Wrady Michel & King either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.