“I don’t want to sue anybody, I only want to do my job!” This is a familiar frustration that the RMADAC often receives. Employees want to know what to do after an employer denied an accommodation request.
An employer may deny a specific accommodation, but the obligation to find another accommodation remains. The employer is now responsible to engage in a continuing dialogue with the employee. This is also known as the interactive process. It is crucial that negotiations continue in hopes of finding one that works for everyone. Unfortunately, many times this is where the positive communication ends.
When discussion breaks down, an employee can choose to file a formal complaint. The complaint would be with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Not something that most employees (or employers) want to happen! The good news is that many times, resolution can occur without this legal formality. Mediation is an alternative to litigation that is informal and confidential. An impartial "go-between" helps participants discuss the issues together. The mediator does not determine right or wrong. The mediator leads participants to work out their own solutions.
Does mediation work? In 2008, the EEOC Mediation Program saw more than a 72 percent settlement rate. Studies show that over 90 percent of respondents would use mediation again. Participants believed it is fair and neutral for everyone, saving time and money.
And what happens if a satisfactory resolution is not reached? In these cases, mediation ends, and the charge will process like any other charge. But the mediation process that has taken place will remain confidential and free of cost.
(If you happen to work for a federal agency, the complaint process is different. For more information, check out: Overview of Federal Sector EEO Complaint Process.)
To recap the benefits of mediation:
1. Mediation is quick. The average processing time for mediation is 84 days.
2. Mediation is free.
3. Mediation enhances communication and fosters improved working relationships - a positive affect!
4. If mediation is successful, there is no formal investigation.
While it may not be for everyone and for every situation, mediation can be a viable option to litigation. There is nothing to lose, but much to gain!