As experienced federal employment attorneys, we know that most EEO Complaints end in settlement. There are many benefits to settlement, and you may obtain relief that is not available to you through the EEOC’s hearing process. Settlement may also enable you to move on emotionally from what is often an extremely stressful time in your career.
Settlement may occur at any point during the EEO complaint process, including early on at the informal complaint stage, or in some cases, even after an EEOC hearing. While settlement negotiations may happen informally through email or telephone calls, a type of mediation known as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) may be offered as an option to help the parties come together and reach an agreement.
ADR is a voluntary process where you meet, typically in person, with the Agency and a neutral mediator to discuss whether your EEO complaint can be resolved. EEO Mediation is a confidential process, and everyone present will be asked to sign a Confidentiality Agreement.
Some advantages of mediation include:
You may be wondering how to “win” at EEOC mediation, but the better question is what to ask for to get the results you hope for. The average EEOC mediation settlement varies drastically based upon the case, your relief request, and your counsel, so preparation is key. However, the process generally follows the same structure.
A mediation session typically begins with the complainant explaining what happened and what discrimination occurred that caused them to file an EEO complaint against the agency. The agency will then respond, and in some cases the parties, the complainant and the agency, then discuss the issues together. Under the EEOC’s new Management Directive 110, the Agency should have a settlement authority present who is not a Responsible Management Official (RMO) in the complaint. In other words, the Agency should have a settlement authority who is above the RMO in the chain of command authorized to make settlement offers on behalf of the Agency. This can make settlement more likely to occur, as the official deciding on the settlement is less personally involved than an RMO might be, and might better understand the bigger picture.
Prior to the mediation, the employee should think about various options for relief and be prepared at the mediation to state what the agency could do to resolve the complaint. Ideally, the agency will then make an offer to the complainant to consider. Often the agency’s opening offer is not its final offer, and mediation can involve several rounds of settlement demands and counteroffers between the complainant and the agency.
If the complainant and agency are unable to reach a resolution at mediation, then the employee may continue to pursue their complaint through the process. Mediation may occur at any point in the EEO complaint process, although it is most typically offered at the informal EEO complaint stage, where the complainant can elect to participate in ADR, or when the case is pending before an Administrative Judge at the EEOC.
You are entitled to representation at any mediation, and the attorneys at the Federal Practice Group are well-versed in participating in the ADR process to obtain relief for our clients. Contact us today to set up a consultation.
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