Employers can find themselves traveling a precarious road after an employee files a charge of discrimination. The pandemic alone has heightened stress levels for many organizations, so what options do employers have other than extended administrative investigations and uncertain outcomes? Resolving the dispute early through agency mediation may be a solution for both employers and employees.
Administrative agencies that handle discrimination charges, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and comparable state agencies, offer voluntary, confidential mediation services at no cost. Employers should weigh the pros and cons of mediation and consider several factors, for instance:
- Time: The life of a discrimination charge can last over a year. Mediation typically takes place before the investigation even begins. Negotiating a settlement can save an employer the time it may have otherwise spent responding to the charge, participating in an investigation, and waiting for a decision.
- Money: Settlement agreements, when weighed against potential risks and future litigation, could result in better outcomes. Although payment is often part of an agreement, it is important to remember that many of the most effective settlements include both monetary terms and constructive solutions like training.
- COVID-19: Due to social distancing and safety requirements, in-person mediation may not be possible. Explore alternatives with the mediator when scheduling mediation, like telephone conferences or other remote options.
- Mediators: Agency mediators are trained neutrals who help facilitate settlement discussions. Mediators cannot provide legal advice or determine the merits of allegations. Generally, parties do not choose a specific agency mediator.
- Settlement: If the parties resolve the dispute, they typically sign a no-fault settlement agreement, and the employee withdraws the charge. Although parties will need to negotiate in good faith during mediation, they are not required to settle. If negotiations fail, the charge moves forward to an investigation.
If you have any questions about mediation with an administrative agency, we are here to help.