The American Arbitration Association's Commitment to Diversity

Article excerpt

The AAA's commitment to fair treatment and equal employment has been ongoing since its inception in 1926. Jennifer Coffman reviews that organizational mindset and explores ways in which the AAA and the dispute resolution field at large can increase the inclusiveness of ADR.

In 2003, the American Arbitration Association, a not-for-profit provider of alternative dispute resolution services, whose mission is one of education and public service, published a strong commitment to diversity with the following message of inclusiveness: The American Arbitration Association is the global leader in conflict management with core values of integrity and service. Our integrity demands impartial and fair treatment of all people with whom we come in contact, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, sexual orientation, or other characterization. Our conflict management services put into practice our goal for the resolution of disputes between parties with different perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds.

Because of the breadth of the Association's work and the global reach of its services, we recognize the importance and contribution of a diverse work force, a diverse Roster of Neutrals, a diverse Board, and commit to respect and increase diversity in all our endeavors.

This commitment to fair treatment and equal employment are core values that have been part of the AAA organizational culture since 1926, when Frances Kellor was its first female executive. Today, more than half of AAA employees are women and 46% are persons of color; 47% of executives, vice presidents and department managers are women and 28% are persons of color.

The AAA also carries its commitment to diversity into the recruitment of directors: 28% of AAA directors are women, 22% of directors are minority men and women, and in total 41% are female and/or minority professionals. This is a significant change from the 8% diversity of the AAA's board in 1993.

As a leader in the field of alternative dispute resolution and dispute prevention, the AAA is constantly working to create a level playing field, not just within its own walls, but also outside the organization.

It has played a leadership role in creating minimum standards of due process for consumer, ecommerce, statutory employment, and healthcare disputes, recognizing that consumers, employees and patients need minimum procedural fairness protections since their disputes tend to involve a party with greater bargaining power.

In these endeavors, the AAA has worked with industry organizations and stakeholders, such as the American Medical Association in connection with the Healthcare Due Process Protocol; and with the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators, the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission, Consumers Union and Consumer Action, among other groups and government agencies, in connection with the Consumer Due Process Protocol.

The Association has also created ethical standards for arbitrators and mediators, working together with the American Bar Association and with the Association for Conflict Resolution in the case of the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators.

The Association always has fairness in mind when it drafts its rules. Its arbitration rules have been tested by time and the courts, and are used as standard procedures for the field of alternative dispute resolution.

Proposed rules changes are made by a committee whose members include outside experts in the field. In addition, the Association solicits input from users of its services when changes are proposed to its rules.

In 2002, the AAA created a Code of Ethics for Employees to guide impartial behavior of AAA staff throughout the organization. As an example, employees may not accept gifts.

The Association also requires every staff member to undergo sexual harassment and discrimination prevention training. …