Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints can cause stress for your organization, especially if the complaint escalates to a hearing. For many complaints, though, there is an alternative to formal hearings. 

When the complaint is first filed, your team can opt for alternative dispute resolution instead. 

What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?

Alternative dispute resolution is a way to resolve complaints of discrimination based on race, sex, gender, religion, or disability, among other factors. When an employee feels that they have been discriminated against, they are able to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 

Working with a third party to mediate the situation can help both parties come to an agreement or a compromise. These types of resolutions must be fair to both parties in order to be considered effective. 

In this case, fair is defined as:

  • Voluntary
  • Neutral
  • Enforceable
  • Confidential

For all of these criteria to be met, both parties must enter into the mediation of their own volition without any control over the outcome. Additionally, all information discussed in the meeting must be kept confidential. Once a resolution has been reached, a third party must be able to enforce the agreement – otherwise, it can escalate to a hearing. 

The Benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution

There are multiple benefits to mediation. First, going through the EEO complaint process can be time-consuming, expensive, and complicated. Mediation avoids all of these issues. It also gives a lot of control back to the complainant and the agency.

When both sides are able to work together, it can help clear up misunderstandings more quickly and give everyone a chance to say their piece. Additionally, nothing said in mediation is documented, allowing both parties to be honest and upfront.

There is also no determination of fault or blame – just a mutually beneficial resolution and improved communication between parties when resolution is successful.

What Happens if Mediation Does Not Work?

If alternative dispute resolution is not successful, either party can decide to escalate the dispute and go through the traditional EEO complaint process. Working with a mediator does not cause the parties to waive their rights to a normal process. 

However, nothing that was said in the mediation sessions may be used in the complaint process. All information stays confidential between the parties and the mediator. It is important to keep in mind that when the complaint is taken through the EEO process, the outcome may not be what either party hoped for.

It is generally in the best interest of everyone involved to work through issues using alternative dispute resolution. 

If your agency does not currently have a plan in place for alternative dispute resolution, Applied Development can help. We can work with your team as an objective third-party mediator to help everyone come to an agreeable solution to EEO complaints. 

For more information on our alternative dispute resolution services, give us a call today at 410.571.4016 or reach out online