Employment Disputes: Solving Them out of Court

By Wilburn, Kay O. | Management Review, March 1998 | Go to article overview

Employment Disputes: Solving Them out of Court


Wilburn, Kay O., Management Review


In the search for win/win solutions to workplace disputes, companies are turning to alternative dispute resolution methods.

You've seen this scenario before. An employee makes an emotionally charged allegation of discrimination against a supervisor and your company, then adamantly pursues the claim through the EEOC and the courts. Months pass, then years. The company ultimately "prevails," but not before sinking some $300,000 into legal expenses to defend the charges. The case could have been handled in a more appropriate and cost-effective manner.

You've been there, done it. Your company hires a recent college graduate who later claims that an older male employee has sexually harassed her. Upon investigation, you find that other female employees do not believe the man's conduct is sexual harassment; rather, they view him as the "grandfatherly type" who always compliments women on how "nice" they look, but not inappropriately so. Your company doesn't want to risk a lawsuit, so you fire the male employee, who for more than 30 years had been an exemplary and valuable worker. Such drastic measures very likely could have been avoided if dispute resolution methods had been in place.

Resolving employee disputes has always been a challenge, and the task isn't getting any easier in today's workplace. Federal and state laws have expanded the rights afforded to employees, giving them greater opportunities to bring claims against employers. The 1991 Civil Rights Act specifically permits both punitive and compensatory damages for most types of discrimination and grants the right to a jury trial for such claims. Employees enjoy expanded rights regarding age and disability discrimination, health and safety on the job and family and medical leave.

At the same time, employees have become more sophisticated about the types of legal remedies available to them concerning workplace disputes. Together, these two factors have led to a dramatic increase in employment claims in recent years.

As many companies have discovered, litigation is not the key to handling most of these cases. For one thing, companies are likely to spend more on outside attorneys' fees than on awards or settlements. Moreover, traditional litigation commonly polarizes the parties' positions. Even if the company ultimately wins, the benefits to the organization may be few and the harm experienced by the employee (or former employee) may be irreparable.

Fortunately, today's companies don't have to rely on litigation alone to resolve employment disputes. They can use a variety of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods that not only effectively resolve workplace disputes but also withstand legal scrutiny. With certain safeguards in place, companies can use ADR programs to devise win/win solutions to workplace disputes that satisfy both the employer and employee, regardless of the outcome.

The use of ADR to resolve employment disputes has strong statutory support. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 specifically encourages the use of ADR methods such as settlement negotiations, conciliation, mediation, mini-trials and arbitration. The Administrative Dispute Resolution Act of 1996 permanently authorizes the use of ADR by federal agencies. And the EEOC has issued a policy statement stating its commitment to ADR in the resolution of employment disputes. Each district office must develop appropriate processes.

The EEOC's growing use of ADR means that companies should be familiar with the processes involved. But even more important, management should design an internal grievance policy to reduce litigation and maintain workable relations with employees. An effective ADR program can diffuse potentially explosive workplace situations, thereby easing employees' need to pursue claims with the EEOC or the courts.

The EEOC requires that the use of ADR be fair, voluntary, neutral, confidential and enforceable.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Employment Disputes: Solving Them out of Court
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.