With various professional and personal stressors at play, we are seeing the number of disputes in the workplace rise—even with many of us working from home. Alternative dispute resolution or ADR can help to resolve these conflicts quickly and efficiently, and potentially without the need for a courtroom battle. With trials on the back burner because of COVID concerns, businesses wanting to reduce legal spending, and various other time delays that continue to plaque litigants, ADR is trending in California.
While ADR may not be the best option for every conflict that occurs, it is often a favorable one – and an increasingly available option during the current pandemic.
Understanding Alternative Dispute Resolution
Generally speaking, ADR offers a less intimidating environment for parties who, in many cases, want to continue to work together, to amicably resolve workplace disputes. Parties are able to work together with a neutral individual to resolve the issues in conflict, and in the case of mediation, do so without having some stranger decide who wins and who loses.
It is surprising how common it is for litigants or those involved in a dispute not to fully comprehend the differences between mediation and arbitration.
Mediation: A mediator works with the parties to reach a mutually agreeable resolution. A mediator is a trained facilitator, often with a background as a trial lawyer, who understands negotiation best practice, human subtleties, and an ear for listening. While the mediator will offer advice and solutions to the problem, the ultimate decisions are left up to the parties.
Arbitration: One or more arbitrators hears from all parties and renders a binding or non-binding decision. All parties must sign an agreement to abide by the arbitrator’s decision. In many cases, a panel of three – mutually agreed to by all parties – is used instead of a single arbitrator.
As an experienced trial attorney and ADR neutral, both methods can be incredibly useful, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes, the nature of the dispute is such that there is much better chance for a successful outcome if a mediator helps facilitate the parties to reach a voluntary resolution, without determining who was right and who was wrong. However, there are occasions when the dynamics are such that a mutual resolution just isn’t possible, and the parties both want and need someone in a position of “authority” to make a decision and determine the outcome for them.
Is ADR Right For Your Business?
While using ADR in the workplace can help your organization avoid drawn-out and expensive litigation and help improve a tense work environment, it’s not necessarily appropriate for all situations. In order for ADR to work effectively, all parties must be willing to actively participate and stick with the decision. Being one step ahead of workplace issues is one of the most effective ADR techniques. Contact mediator Drew Pomerance to discuss tangible policies you can put in place to avoid conflict down the road.