Employers were encouraged Monday to take part in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s mediation program, with one lawyer saying the program has been successful in resolving employment discrimination cases and saving employers money and time by avoiding litigation.

Speaking at the Society for Human Resource Management’s Employment Law & Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., Whitney Warner, a founding partner with the labor and employment law firm of Moody & Warne in Albuquerque, N.M., tackled several myths about participating in EEOC mediations.

The first, and possibly one of the most nerve-wracking, is the belief employers will be expected to cough up large sums of money when participating in mediation.

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In reality, Warner says, many times former employees just want an explanation of what really happened that led to their termination. Other times, they would be happy with a month of COBRA or even just an apology for the way a termination was handled.

Another concern from employers, she notes, is the thought that the EEOC is always going to side with the employee.

In fact, she says, 89% of employers and 91% of the charging parties surveyed feel the mediator remained neutral throughout the process.

In addition, she says, there is a wall between the mediator and the investigator, if it reaches that point. “Nothing said in mediation is relayed to the investigator or anyone else at EEOC,” she adds.

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Settling in mediation should also not be considered an admission of guilt, she says. Contrary to what employers think, a settlement merely means the employer and charging party agree to disagree.

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Weigh the pros and cons, she says, when considering settlements, adding that money is only one factor to consider.

Finally, “going to mediation for three to four hours is not a waste of time,” she affirms. “It is, in fact, a good use of your time.”

In fact, she says, mediation usually occurs within three months and can take between three and four hours. There’s no cost for either side and it can avoid further lengthy and costly legal action.

Six laws fall within the EEOC’s jurisdiction: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

“You have nothing to lose,” she says. Moreover, she said, the mediation process could minimize any lawsuit disruptions and could salvage existing relationships – particularly with current employees.

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