Written by attorney William K. Phillips

EEOC Mediation and EEOC Conciliation

What is mediation?

Mediation is a method of settling a dispute. In mediation, a neutral third party, the mediator, meets together with the parties, encourages them to communicate their concerns, and works with them to create an agreement that will end the conflict.

What is EEOC mediation?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) created a mediation program in the early 1990’s that has since become one of the largest and most successful dispute resolution programs in the United States. EEOC mediation enables parties to settle a charge of discrimination without engaging in a lengthy investigation or going to court.

What is the process of setting up an EEOC mediation session?

Thousands of charges are filed with the EEOC each year. Of these, the EEOC selects some as suitable for mediation. The EEOC Mediation Unit contacts the charging party and the respondent (the employer) to ask if they wish to engage in mediation. If both parties agree, the EEOC schedules a mutually convenient date for the mediation. If one of the parties declines to mediate, the Charge is sent to the EEOC Investigation Unit.

Why should I mediate my EEOC charge?

There may be many good reasons to engage in EEOC mediation. The program is “free, quick, voluntary and confidential." Participants do not sacrifice their rights by mediating: if the case does not settle, the charge is treated the same as any other charge of discrimination filed with the EEOC. The mediator can assist in helping the parties create their own positive outcomes. A high percentage of EEOC mediations are successful, and participants frequently report their satisfaction with the EEOC’s mediation process.

What happens at the EEOC mediation session?

At the start of the mediation session, a trained mediator explains the mediation process and then asks the employee to explain why they filed a charge and what they hope to accomplish. The employer likewise shares its perspective of the dispute and its goals for the mediation session. The mediator will then try to help the participants overcome their differences and encourage them to work together to arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement that will resolve their dispute. If the mediation is successful, the settlement agreement will have the same force as a court’s judgment.

How is mediation different from going to court?

In mediation, the participants, rather than a judge or jury, decide the outcome of the matter. The mediator does not review the evidence to determine who will prevail. Instead of one party winning and one party losing, in mediation the agreement is typically a compromise, and may even be a “win-win" solution where both parties get some or all of what they are looking for. Additionally, lawsuits are time-consuming and can be stressful. Mediation, which typically lasts a day, cuts short the amount of time needed to resolve a case, and participants frequently report how productive and even healing mediation can be. Whereas court processes focus on the past, mediation focuses on creating a positive future. Moreover, trials are public and may even be reported in the media, whereas mediation is private and confidential.

What is EEOC Conciliation?

EEOC Conciliation occurs after an EEOC investigator has reviewed the evidence and found “reasonable cause" to believe the employer has engaged in illegal discrimination or harassment. During the conciliation process, the EEOC will explain why it concluded the employer may have violated the law and try to reach a settlement with the employer. The EEOC may also encourage the employee’s assistance in helping to settle the case. The employer is free to accept or reject the settlement offer. A successful conciliation may result in the employer agreeing to change its practices to conform to the law and to remedy harm caused to the employee. If conciliation is unsuccessful, the EEOC will either bring a lawsuit on behalf of the employee or issue the employee a “right to sue" letter, which permits the employee to file a civil lawsuit.

It is helpful to have a New York EEOC representation lawyer on your side. An attorney can provide assistance in describing your case in the best light, presenting helpful facts to the EEOC, your damages and cutting through red tape. If you are willing to pursue your claim, it makes good sense to involve an experienced New York discrimination attorney from the outset. The attorneys at Phillips & Phillips have substantial employment discrimination experience, including numerous EEOC proceedings and EEOC mediations. We are here to help. Contact your New York EEOC representation lawyer today at (212) 248-7431.

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