Mediation is an informal and cooperative problem-solving process. Its main goal is to help two or more parties reach an applicable agreement and resolve issues in matters pending before the Office of Adjudications.
Mediation can also be requested at any point in time during the hearing process by either party or may be suggested by a hearing officer.
Mediation is an opportunity for both parties to converse in a non-threatening, non-argumentative fashion and clarify disputes or matters that may be the subject of misinterpretations in order to find areas of agreement.
When parties mediate, they elect how their differences will be resolved. They govern the process as well as the outcome, not the mediator.
The mediator, a trained and experienced neutral third party, who is not the hearing officer, will assist in the formation of an agreement that is both acceptable to and binding on both sides.
The mediation process is strictly confidential; mediators are mandated to uphold intense discretion, thus information revealed and discussed during mediation will not be disclosed to anyone, including a hearing officer if a matter subsequently becomes the subject of a hearing.
The choice to mediate is just that, a choice. It is sternly voluntary, deliberate and must be a mutual or unanimous decision. All parties involved must agree to mediate. Mediation is under NO circumstances a legal proceeding. The goal of mediation is to merely resolve differences efficiently and amicably without the need for a more formalized procedure.
What Does The Process Entail?
In certain circumstances, each party may be asked to sign an agreement outlining the conditions of their mediation session.
The rules that prohibit private communications to a hearing officer do not apply; parties can consult with a mediator at any time without the attendance of the other parties.
The session commences with an introductory statement from the mediator that describes the process and offers guidelines for the mediation.
Each party will then have an opportunity to tell their story, in their own words without disruption.
After the initial statements are presented, the mediator may have a separate meeting with each party called a “caucus.” During the caucus, participants may discuss other interests or issues privately with the mediator.
The process continues with collective meetings and privately conducted caucuses to develop options and finally reach an agreement.
If an arrangement is reached, it is binding on the parties. If there is no agreement, the mediator may suggest other options that may be viable to the parties.
Why Should You Mediate?
Mediation is an opportunity to deliberate on a matter without conflict or argument.
Mediation can help parties move beyond conflict created or perpetrated by emotional dissimilarities.
Mediation is typically brief, cost effective, efficient and often circumvents more formalized negotiations, such as hearings.
Participants have an equivalent say in the process and select their own settlement terms.
Even if the parties do not reach a full agreement, some matters may still come to a resolution.
What Are Your Responsibilities?
Be prepared to discuss the disputes, explain your interests or concerns, share information and propose or consider all solutions.
Listen attentively and ask questions to clarify anything that is not clear.
An attorney need not be present to represent you, but get expert advice when necessary.
Be sure to bring the people who can authorize the details of a final agreement to the mediation session or have them available by phone.
Agree to keep all discussions confidential, unless certain exceptions are agreed to.