If you are involved in an employment dispute in New York, you may have heard about the benefits of mediation. In appropriate cases, mediation can allow parties to resolve disputes and avoid risky, costly, and time-consuming litigation.

Understanding Mediation

According to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC), mediation is “an informal and confidential way for people to resolve disputes with the help of a neutral mediator who is trained to help people discuss their differences.” Similarly, the NYC Commission on Human Rights defines mediation as “a form of dispute resolution that serves as an informal alternative to the traditional investigative or litigation process.”

Mediation brings together parties who have a dispute, along with a neutral third-party mediator. The mediator facilitates the negotiation of a mutually acceptable resolution between the parties. Mediation is generally a voluntary process. If no resolution is reached through mediation, then the parties are free to continue to litigate their claims in court or through an administrative agency.

Federal and New York State Mediation

Most types of cases can be mediated. When a complaint of employment discrimination, unpaid wages or overtime is filed in federal court, depending upon whether the court is in the Eastern or Southern District of New York, the case may be automatically referred to mediation. This does not mean that the parties will be forced to reach an agreement.

When an employee files a discrimination claim under federal law-such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-the EEOC may refer a case to mediation after a charge is filed. In such a case, the EEOC may contact the parties involved to see if they are interested and willing to participate in mediation. There are similar processes at the New York State Division of Human Rights and New York City Commission on Human Rights for cases under the New York State Human Rights Law and New York City Human Rights Law, respectively.

Benefits of Mediation

While mediation is not appropriate in every employment law case, it can often be beneficial. Some of the benefits of mediation are:

● Both parties get to have a say in the outcome of the case;

● Mediation is confidential, which allows both parties to speak honestly during the mediation session without worrying that their words will later be used against them;

● Mediation typically results in a much faster resolution of the case than litigation;

● Mediation is much less expensive than an investigation or a subsequent lawsuit; and

● If an agreement is reached, it gives both parties certainty surrounding the outcome of the case.

If you have questions about mediation, you should discuss them with a New York mediation lawyer.