Alternative Dispute Resolution
Our lawyers regularly engage in methods of alternative dispute resolution such as mediation, arbitration, and settlement negotiations. An experienced litigator and negotiator is among the most valuable weapons you can have to maximize the value of your claim.Mediation
Mediation is an important process through which a neutral party facilitates a discussion, and the parties attempt to find common ground on which the case can be settled.
One of the first things to understand about mediation is that it does not involve giving up your right to a trial by jury or your right to otherwise adjudicate your claim. Mediation is not binding, and you can always leave the negotiating table. That fact alone is one of the primary reasons why mediation is so valuable. The parties are only there if they want to be there. They are only there if they are interested in finding resolution.
Mediations can be held in any number of contexts. Formal mediations can be held at agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or federal settlement conferences with a United States Magistrate Judge serving as the mediator.
The parties can also agree to a mediation that is unrelated to any filing or judicial process by hiring a private mediator. This allows the parties to try to reach a resolution without the formalities, or costs, of formal litigation.
In addition to the cost savings, mediation has several other advantages. It is a faster, less formal process than litigation. The mediation process also allows you to evaluate your case and the opposing party’s case prior to formal litigation.
Mediation also benefits from being a confidential process. Generally, the information the parties learn in mediation cannot be used in the litigation of the claim. Parties generally feel more comfortable speaking their minds in mediation, not only about the facts and merits of the case, but also about the emotional issues that surround the case. When this conversation is productive, it tends to build towards resolution, as the parties are able to understand the genesis of the dispute, the evidence, the defenses and allegations, and the legal factors at play.
Mediation is a great dispute resolution option for parties that intend to maintain an amicable relationship. It is particularly well suited for employment claims where an individual remains employed by the opposing party or for business disputes where the parties intend to continue to do business together in a small industry.Arbitration
Arbitration is basically a trial without the courtroom. The parties hire an arbitrator, often a retired judge or well-respected senior attorney, to adjudicate their claims. This process generally includes motions, depositions, the exchange of documents, and a hearing.
Arbitration has become increasingly common in recent years as federal courts have consistently enforced the Federal Arbitration Act. These agreements are often included in new hire paperwork and employees may sign them either uninformed or because they believe the consequences to be remote. In many ways, arbitration is similar to litigating a lawsuit, but with several substantial drawbacks.
First, you cannot have a jury in arbitration. A jury is important for plaintiffs because issues like discrimination and harassment should be determined by your peers and your damages should be determined by a group of people who can candidly discuss your claims.
Second, the process is confidential. Often times, plaintiffs want their claims to be public and for the defendant to be held publicly accountable. Arbitration does not allow for those sorts of disclosures.
Finally, the expense of arbitration may also be a problem. Depending on the arbitration agreement and the applicable rules of the arbitrator selected, both parties to the arbitration may be responsible for bearing these expenses. Significant expenses may accrue for the arbitrator’s time spent learning of each party’s respective positions and for hearing the matter.
The benefit of arbitration is that, for employees, it is faster and cheaper than a lawsuit. While an employee might wait years for their day in court, arbitrations of straightforward cases can usually be resolved in as little as six months.Settlement Negotiations
Almost every case involves some level of settlement negotiations. It is to the advantage of all parties to consider the merits of the claims, the costs of litigation, and other factors when deciding whether settlement is an appropriate option.
Our attorneys are proud of a strong history of favorable settlements for our clients, with remedies including back pay, letters of recommendation, and confidentiality agreements to protect our clients’ future job searches from the problems of their past employment.