Alternative Dispute Resolution
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requires all Federal agencies to establish or make available an Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) program which can be used at all stages of the EEO complaint process. Mediation is the form of ADR that the Department of Transportation has chosen to utilize in EEO cases. Mediation is a problem solving process that uses a neutral third party. The mediator works with the parties to assist them in identifying mutually acceptable solutions and to facilitate communication between the parties. Mediation has proven to be the type of ADR that is most successful in workplace disputes of this nature, and is less time-consuming and less expensive than the more formal EEO complaint process.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is committed to maintaining a positive work environment that is free from discrimination and that promotes productivity and individual growth by working to resolve workplace related issues at the lowest possible level. ADR is an informal, cost-effective conflict resolution tool that allows the parties in dispute, to discuss and develop their own resolutions. In most instances, the parties have the flexibility to develop creative solutions that are generally not possible in court or during formal hearings and appeals.
ADR can also mend or improve the overall relationship between the parties because the focus is largely on the disputants' interests, while litigation focuses on positions. DOT has established the ONEDOT Sharing Neutrals EEO and Civil Rights ADR Program using mediation as a tool to informally resolve EEO workplace related issues for all employees, former employees and applicants for employment. This program is administered by the Departmental Office of Civil Rights (DOCR).
The EEO Counselor will describe and answer any questions regarding the ADR process during the pre-complaint stage. If the aggrieved individual elects to participate in the ADR process, s/he will be required to complete the Request for Mediation form. Mediation may also be requested after a formal complaint has been accepted for investigation or anytime prior to a hearing.
The mediation intake form and requests for mediation will be reviewed by the agency to determine whether the case is appropriate for mediation. If the case is found suitable for mediation, an Agreement to Mediate form will be signed by each party, and a mediator obtained.
Agreement to Mediate
Once the parties have agreed to enter into mediation, the Agreement to Mediate form should signed by the parties. The form will be submitted to the OA Office of Civil Rights Mediation Coordinator.
In the event ADR is unsuccessful, the case is referred back to the EEO Counselor. The EEO Counselor will conduct a final interview and the aggrieved individual will follow the EEO Complaint Process.
Schedule the Mediation
Once a mediator has been selected, the OA Mediation Coordinator will work with all parties to schedule mediation time(s) and location(s). Mediation will be conducted in a neutral location.
Parties should come to a mediation session prepared to discuss the issue(s) and possible resolution. It is recommended that settlement options be discussed with the appropriate officials and/or representatives prior to the mediation session.
The mediator will facilitate the mediation session. Each party will be given the opportunity to discuss their concerns without interruption. If necessary, the mediator may ask for private discussions (caucuses) with each party. Mediation will continue until a resolution is reached or the parties agree that a resolution of the issue is not possible at this time. Since mediation is a voluntary process, either party may end the mediation session at any time. If a mutually acceptable resolution is reached, the mediator will draft the terms and conditions for each party to review.
Mediation does not always lead to a successful resolution. If this occurs, the mediator will inform the OA Mediation Coordinator, who will send the case back to the appropriate EEO official to continue at the point in the EEO complaint process in which it left off. In the EEO Complaint Process, the pre-complaint stage may not exceed 90-calendar days.
A resolution will be reduced to writing and signed by the parties. The OA Civil Rights Director, or designated official where the complaint originated, will monitor compliance with settlement agreements reached as a result of mediation. Settlement agreements will be maintained in the servicing OAs Civil Rights Office and DOCR. If a complaint is resolved at the formal complaint stage, through the mediation process, a copy will be forwarded to the appropriate Associate Director, DOCR Compliance Operations Division.
Breach of Settlement Agreement/Non-compliance
If an individual believes that DOT has failed to comply with, or breached, the terms of the settlement agreement, he/she shall notify the DOCR, Associate Director, Compliance Operations Division. A notice, in writing, must be submitted within 30-calendar days of when the individual knew of the breach. The individual may request that the terms of the Settlement agreement be carried out, or alternatively, that the complaint be reinstated for further action from the point that complaint processing ceased. In the event that the individual alleges non-compliance and chooses to reinstate his/her allegations of discrimination, his/her request for reinstatement will require that she/he return in full to the agency any relief that has been provided.