Mediation at the EEOC: A Management Attorney’s Advice

Workplace disputes are complicated, whether they involve legal liability, typical politics, or what initially appears as an ongoing debate on who drank the last bit of coffee without putting on a new pot.  When the dispute involves matters of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation, the matter may involve the employee and the employer spending time with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC is the federal agency charged with enforcing certain civil rights laws in the workplace.  Annually it publishes the number of charges it has received and the kinds of claims that were made.  Tens of thousands of charges are made each year.  As part of the processing of these charges and investigation of the claims, the EEOC has the opportunity to offer the employer and employee mediation in which it – the EEOC – will also be a party (albeit sometimes a silent party) to the mediation session.

Mediation is a time where the parties may be able to work out their differences, set things back on course, or otherwise resolve the dispute.  A recent article from a management-side attorney offer employers advice on whether to mediate through the EEOC’s process and the prospect of “settling.”  The article begs the question of whether mediation is a useful prospect if the employer (or perhaps any party) is not willing to do something, give up something, or say something as a fixed and unmovable position.

Mediation, however, sometimes is the place where information may be obtained early enough in the process to re-evaluate staunch positions…and make informed and wise decisions before further damage occurs or dollars, time, and resources are spent…on either side of the “v.”


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