No matter how large or small a company is, there is one reliable fact of life: At some point, there will be a dispute between the company and one of its employees. Most of the time, it is the employees who try to file a lawsuit against their employers for a different reasons. These disputes come in many shapes and sizes: wrongful termination claims, sexual harassment claims, unsafe working condition claims. Whether objectively true or perceived by an aggrieved and upset employee or former employee, these claims represent potentially costly and embarrassing public moments that can quickly erode a company’s assets in the form of attorney fees and potential settlement awards.
In almost every case, it is in the company’s interest to pursue a mediation solution when they come into conflict with an employee or former employee. If nothing else, an attempt at mediation in order to avoid litigation on the part of the employees is a no-lose proposition for both sides, and should always be attempted.
The Downside of Litigation
Mediation can be a tremendous advantage to both parties. For the company, they can often avoid not simply the cost of a litigation and possible settlement order, but also avoid the bad feelings and distrust that a lengthy lawsuit can engender not only between the company and the aggrieved employee, but between the company and all of its employees. The rest of the staff will naturally feel some kinship with the aggrieved employee, and negativity generated by a lawsuit can infect the entire workforce. Instead, mediation demonstrates a commitment to solving the problem in a friendly, non-aggressive manner.
The Upside of Mediation
In mediating employment issues, the situation can be better controlled. This type of alternative dispute resolution is private, saving the public face of the company while a solution is sought. It also avoids Discovery, which can often unearth more problems than anticipated. Sometimes, as investigation turns up evidence of wrongdoing by managers or supervisors, the litigation unintentionally swells into something unmanageable. In mediation, on the other hand, a good-faith effort can often resolve the dispute with a manageable expenditure and no public relations cost at all.
More importantly, mediation invites the employee into the process as an equal, setting the tone for negotiation that can often avoid punitive attempts to punish a company seen as unresponsive and defensive.
Mediation cannot, of course, solve all employee disputes, but it can help any company avoid turning a disgruntled employee’s complaint into a financial and public relations fiasco.