Alternative Dispute Resolution in the Workplace: Concepts and Techniques for Human Resource Executives and Their Counsel

Article excerpt

Alternative Dispute Resolution in the Workplace: Concepts and Techniques for Human Resource Executives and Their Counsel, by E. Patrick McDermott with Arthur Eliot Berkeley,1996, Westport, CT: Quorum Books.

Reviewers: Penelope R. Mercurio-Jennings and William P Jennings, California State University, Northridge

Alternative Dispute Resolution in the Workplace: Concepts and Techniques for Human Resource Executives and Their Counsel seeks to explain the uses, benefits, and costs of various nonjudicial alternatives to disputes arising in the workplace. Structurally, the book is divided into three chapters and an appendix. Chapter 1 (The Changing Legal and Legislative Landscape) discusses recent legislation and court decisions focusing on the legality of mandatory binding arbitration provisions. Chapter 2 (Varieties of Alternative Dispute Resolution) sets forth examples of alternative methods of resolving disputes between workers and employers from such simple and obvious concepts as an "open-door policy" to more complicated arbitration/mediation models. Chapter 3 (The Trend: Corporate Alternative Dispute Resolution Programs) and the appendix provide examples of corporate dispute resolution plans and programs from companies like Northrop, Rockwell International, Travelers Group, and, in detail, Brown & Root.

The book reviews workplace dispute resolution techniques available to employers, including binding arbitration, and, to a certain extent, such techniques as open-door policy, peer review, ombudsman, employer-run dispute resolution procedures, unionmanagement model, mediation, and fact-finding. The book analyzes these dispute resolution alternatives as management tools to help avoid or reduce the cost of litigation and to protect rights of employers to manage workers. The most useful part of the book is the discussion of available ADR methods, particularly the actual plan used by Brown & Root (in the appendix).

Although the book may be useful to human resource managers or corporate lawyers who are considering the implementation of an ADR plan, the book cannot be viewed as a comprehensive analysis of the use of ADR in the workplace. First, although there is a good discussion of the benefits of ADR, the disadvantages are glossed over. The authors ignore the importance (especially for employers in the long run) of having actual court decisions interpreting recent employment statutes such as the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Second, the major focus of the book is on mandatory binding arbitration. Other forms of alternative dispute resolution are, in general, merely mentioned. Thus, the book probably would have been more effective if the discussion had been limited to issues related to binding arbitration and the title had been changed accordingly.

The authors might have intended to discuss nonjudicial workplace dispute resolution in an objective manner, neither pro-worker nor pro-management. …