Imagine this scenario: you own a business and have learned that one of your managers’ actions might be bordering on sexual harassment. Some employees within the company have complained and one employee is even threatening a lawsuit if something isn’t done immediately to change this manager’s behavior. What do you do? Do you wait until a lawsuit happens or do you seek an alternative form of dispute resolution?
The best way to handle a situation like this is through employment mediation, a process that encourages open communication between all parties involved with the help of a highly trained facilitator. During the mediation hearing, a mediator will give each party the opportunity to communicate their “side” of the dispute, ensuring that all underlying issues that might be causing the dispute are brought out into the open. The best part is that this is handled in a completely private and confidential manner, which helps companies and departments maintain their reputation without the embarrassment of public lawsuits.
In sexual harassment cases, in particular, it is often the case that the “harasser” is not aware that he or she is acting inappropriately. Conversations and suggestions that are completely acceptable in a social setting (a bar, for example) might not be acceptable in a workplace, especially when the receiving party is a subordinate. This is why mediation is so successful for these situations: mediation allows both parties to air their concerns and discuss them openly. In addition, if a mediator is chosen who is an expert in sexual harassment and employment laws, he or she will be able to advise the “harasser” concerning the potential legal consequences of such actions if a judge were to hear the case. Oftentimes, this expert advice is all that is needed to quell the harassment.
The best part about mediation for employment disputes, however, is that it is handled in such a way as to ensure that an amicable working relationship is continued between the parties after the dispute has been resolved. This relationship will be important to ensure that everyone can get back to business as usual, without the bitterness and hostility that are often the result of a litigated dispute.
Additionally, and perhaps most important for the company’s bottom line, the company will save time and money in sending the dispute to mediation. Mediation is a lower-cost and efficient option to the expensive and time-consuming option of litigation.