Why Companies Should Mediate Employment Disputes

Employment Dispute Mediation

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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.

Why Environmental Disputes Should Be Mediated

Environmental DisputeEnvironmental awareness has been growing internationally for decades now, slowly becoming the normal everyday approach to decisions as far-ranging as the cars we drive to the light bulbs we use. While engagement in environmentally-sound practices varies from individual to individual, the environment is on everyone’s mind in almost every aspect of modern life.

When disputes involving environmental concerns erupt, passions often run very high. This is partly due to an old and inaccurate attitude that environmentally-minded people are tiny David’s fighting against the uncaring corporate Goliath, and partly due to the confusing and often contradictory mass of information and data, making it difficult to state clearly who is right in any given scenario. One thing is certain, however: Mediating environmental disputes is almost always preferable to litigation.

The Confused Law

One reason why environmental dispute mediation is the better than litigation is the chaotic state of much environmental law all across the planet. Laws are only as good as the language they use and the data they are based on, and the ongoing controversies surrounding many environmental issues have resulted in laws that are frequently too vaguely worded, years out of date, or simply not used as originally intended. Litigation over environmental issues is unpredictable, as it is subject to interpretation and subjective judgments on the part of judges or juries.

Benefits of Mediation

Mediation, on the other hand, leaves control over the situation in the hands of the parties involved, giving them total freedom to seek an acceptable solution to their dispute. Unlike litigation, which locks them into often unsatisfactory or ineffective penalties or a narrow range of solutions that are satisfactory to no one, mediation allows the parties to craft a truly useful solution that addresses the concerns of both sides.

Additionally, when mediation is chosen as a first attempt at resolution, it leaves open the possibility of litigation if mediation fails to resolve the dispute. This can not only be a fallback solution in case every other effort fails, it can also act as motivation for one or both parties to negotiate in good faith and renewed energy to avoid the costly and chaotic adventure in a courtroom.

When it comes to environmental disputes, the goal is to protect the planet and its vital resources, not to get bogged down paying attorney’s fees. As a result, it is almost always best to pursue a mediated solution instead of litigation.

Why Do Matters Involving Employment Disputes Lend Themselves to Mediation

Employment DisputeImagine 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.