The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Mediation Program

Article excerpt

THE CPA IN MEDIATION AND ARBITRATION

IF MEDIATION PROVES UNSUCCESSFUL, the charge is investigated like any other, without any of the information disclosed during the mediation process.

In our litigious society, CPAs are frequently called upon to counsel their clients or their own firms about the various alternatives for resolving employment disputes, many of which fall under one or more of the laws enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Knowledge of how the EEOC's mediation program operates could help CPAs and their clients preserve their reputations and save time and money in the event of such employment disputes.

The laws enforced by the EEOC include the following:

* Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, or national origin

* The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits employment discrimination against workers age 40 and older

* The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which concerns the denial of employment opportunities because of disability

* The Equal Pay Act of 1963, which calls for equal pay for equal work

* Certain sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991

* Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in the federal government.

EEOC Mediation Results

More than 75,000 employment discrimination claims are reviewed by the EEOC each year. To help reduce its workload, the EEOC introduced a voluntary mediation pilot program in 1993, which then became operational in April 1999. The program's first year was highly successful: Of the 11,728 disputes mediated, 64% were resolved successfully. According to a research project conducted by E. Patrick McDermott of Saulisbury State University, a professor with experience in both a law firm and an in-house corporate legal department, 96% of the partici pating employers and 91% of the plaintiffs said they would be willing to participate in the program again.

EEOC Mediation Process

An individual who believes any of the above statutes have been violated can file a charge with the EEOC. An EEOC employee then meets with the "charging party" to help prepare a short-form charge that states briefly which statute was allegedly violated, under what circumstances, and when. Other information, such as the number of employees in the company and the age of the charging party, is also necessary to determine whether the charge is eligible for protection under the statutes. A more complete statement is then taken. If the case appears to be eligible for EEOC participation, the charge sheet is sent to both the employer and the EEOC mediation section.

The mediation section, operating independently of the enforcement and litigation sections, contacts both the employer and the charging party to determine whether they will voluntarily participate in mediation. Recent statistics show that 90% of charging parties and more than 40% of employers have agreed to participate, and this percentage has steadily increased as more and more employers have learned about the program's benefits. If both the charging party and the employer agree to mediate, the process begins and usually is completed in less than 90 days.

Mediation is offered without charge to the parties, as an alternative to the traditional investigative and litigation process, and the EEOC maintains no interest in the outcome of the mediated dispute. …