Should I Mediate a Dispute with My Employer?

Two businesspeople standing face to face - mediation in employment disputes concept

It’s not uncommon for disputes to arise between employees and employers. Whether the conflict involves a wage issue, poor working conditions, age discrimination, sexual harassment, or another employment law matter, you might be wondering whether you should consider mediation rather than litigate your case in court. Although it is not appropriate in every case, mediation can often be a cost-effective and efficient way to resolve disputes in the workplace.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that takes place outside of court. The process is non-adversarial, private, and confidential. During an employment dispute mediation session, a neutral third-party called a mediator helps to facilitate communication between an employee and employer in order to reach a resolution to their dispute. Although the mediator does not render decisions as a judge would, they assist the parties with finding their own solution. Based on the complexity of the issues involved, a case might require one mediation session or several to resolve.

Importantly, employment dispute mediation can allow you and your employer to reach a positive resolution that works for both parties. Unlike litigation, where a judge decides the outcome, mediation allows the parties to remain in control of the process. After a resolution has been reached, the parties can draft a settlement agreement — once this document is submitted to the court and signed by the judge, it will become a legally binding order.

Benefits of Mediation in Employment Disputes

Mediation in employment disputes can come with a number of advantages. Not only does it allow you and your employer to customize an agreement that works for everyone, but those who negotiate their own settlements are often more likely to abide by the terms. Specifically, mediation in employment disputes can offer the following benefits:

  • Privacy — Depending on the circumstances, employment related issues can often be sensitive. While litigation takes place in a public court room, your dispute will become part of the public record. Mediation is confidential, allowing you to resolve your conflict privately.
  • Flexibility — Mediation provides for flexibility when resolving disputes that allow for outcomes that might not otherwise have been possible in court.
  • Cost-effectiveness — Using mediation in employment disputes is typically much more efficient and cost-effective than lengthy litigation.
  • Efficiency — Mediation sessions can be scheduled at the convenience of the parties. Since they do not have to rely on the court’s calendar, disputes can often be resolved much more quickly than those that are litigated.
  • Reduced risk — When an employment dispute is litigated, the final decision is left up to a judge. In contrast, mediation allows you and your employer to reach a resolution between yourselves. This can reduce the risk of uncertainty and lead to a more favorable outcome.
  • Improved communication — Since parties are encouraged to speak openly and freely, mediation can help to improve communication between an employer and employee. This can help to enhance workplace relations and reduce acrimony.

Mediation can also help to preserve your relationship with your employer if you plan to keep working at the same company once the case has been resolved. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that mediation might not be right for your situation in cases where there is a significant power imbalance.

Is Mediation Right for Your Case?

Mediating employment disputes can be a highly effective way to resolve a wide array of conflicts that arise in the workplace. However, it often works best when both the employer and employee voluntarily agree to it. If either party is unwilling to negotiate, the dispute will not settle — and litigation may be necessary. Both sides must be willing to compromise in order for mediation to be successful.

Before going into mediation, you should carefully consider your settlement request. For instance, if your dispute involves a wage claim, you might be entitled to back pay, front pay, and compensatory damages. In a wrongful termination case, you might also request reinstatement. While your remedies in litigation might be limited by statute, there are no specific rules concerning the types of relief you can request in mediation. Often, a more creative resolution can be achieved through the mediation process than would be obtained in litigation.

If you are thinking about mediating your employment dispute, it’s best to consult with an experienced employment law attorney. Significantly, even if you opt to resolve your conflict using mediation, it’s essential to understand your rights, remedies, and options. While an attorney’s role is different in mediation than it is in litigation, they can still assist you with asserting your interests during the sessions.

Contact an Experienced Ohio Employment Law Attorney

In the event you’re facing a dispute with your employer, a knowledgeable employment law attorney can assess your case and determine whether mediation is right for your situation. Located in Westlake and providing representation throughout Ohio, employment attorney Chris Lalak is dedicated to helping employees achieve the best possible outcome in their cases. Contact Lalak LLC today to schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case and learn how we can help.