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The Difference Between Traditional Counseling & ADR/Mediation

Two women sitting in an office environment having a conversation.

It is important to know the difference between tradition counseling and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) also known as mediation. In the event you are filing a discrimination complaint, one of the first decisions you have to make is if you would like to utilize ADR/mediation or traditional counseling.

The first stage of filing a complaint is the informal complaint process. The Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) counselor is there to explain the process, your rights, and responsibilities and respond to any questions that you may have. This is where you would also have to choose between traditional counseling or ADR/mediation.

If you choose ADR/mediation, the expectation is that all parties are interested in making a good faith effort to resolve the case. There are advantages to participating in ADR/mediation, for example, the parties get a chance to voice their issues and views with a neutral party and the mediator has no stake in the outcome.

The core principles of ADR/mediation are:

  1. Voluntary: ADR/mediation is voluntary for employees including the settlement or resolution of the issues. Under Health and Human Services (HHS) policy, the agency must participate in the mediation process.
  2. Neutral: The facilitator or mediator has no stakes in the outcome of the complaint.
  3. Confidential: Nothing that is said by the parties in mediation may be used in subsequent EEO proceedings if the complaint is not resolved.
  4. Enforceable: Any agreement reached in mediation is binding on both parties and enforceable by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

If you chose ADR/mediation you are waiving your right to participate in traditional counseling. It is also important to note that not all cases are a good fit for ADR/mediation and your request for mediation may be declined. Lastly, you can request ADR/mediation in the informal complaint process and during the formal complaint process.

Tradtional Counseling:
In contrast to mediation where both parties come together to discuss their issues, traditional counseling has an EEO counselor that shuttles between the parties separately in an attempt to resolve the dispute. The EEO counselor is also neutral and has no stake in the outcome of the case. The EEO counselor is focused on conducting a limited fact-finding and seeking a mutual resolution.

How long does ADR/mediation or Counseling take?
ADR/mediation must be completed with 90 calendar days of the initial request for counseling. Counseling must be concluded within 30 calendar days unless there is a need to extend the counseling an additional 60 days. If ADR/mediation or counseling is unsuccessful you will be advised on your right to file a formal complaint of discrimination.

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination base on Age, Color, Disability (Physical/Mental), Genetic Information, Race, Religion, Retaliation/Reprisal, Sex, Sexual Orientation, and National Origin.

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