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ADR Symbol Link to OPM Home Page Graphic of Clasping Hands Outstanding Alternative Dispute Resolution Award Programs


2002 OPM Director's Award for

Outstanding ADR Programs

The winners of the 2002 OPM Director's Award for Outstanding ADR Programs were announced at an award ceremony held at OPM on January 9, 2003. The award recipients are: the Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency, the Department of the Navy, and the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore Metropolitan Area Sharing Neutrals Program administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. Further information is contained in OPM's Alternative Dispute Resolution: A Resource Guide.

Farm Service Agency
U.S. Department of Agriculture Workplace Alternative Dispute Resolution Program

Department of the Navy
Workplace Alternative Dispute Resolution Program

Department of Health and Human Services
Washington, D.C.-Baltimore Metropolitan Area Sharing Neutrals Program

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) workplace ADR program was established in October 1999 in response to a Department of Agriculture mandate to create an alternative to traditional Equal Employment Opportunity and grievance processes for workplace disputes. The program services nearly 30,000 individuals in more than 2,200 field offices. It has garnered strong agency support, with funding increasing from $45,000 in 2000 to $430,000 (projected) for 2003.

The program provides a wide range of ADR services, using multiple techniques, and relies on highly qualified professional service providers. In addition to mediation, the program offers coaching, team building, customized skills-building, conciliation, facilitation, and any combination of these services, depending on the situation. Particular attention has been given to addressing underlying issues that create long-standing conflicts within the organization. An emphasis on building and training an intake cadre recognizes the importance of intake in optimizing program services. The program is fully integrated into the organization and works closely with the Counseling and Mediation Branch of the Office of Civil Rights and the Employee Relations, Labor Relations, Workplace Violence Prevention and Employee Assistance offices and programs and with 16 local unions. The Office of Civil Rights has credited the program with a fifty percent decline in informal EEO complaints. In addition, the ADR program has a strong evaluation program that includes direct follow-up to ascertain the long-term effects of its interventions.

The Department of the Navy (DON) Workplace ADR Program originated in the mid-1990s with the stated goal of resolving disputes and conflicts at the earliest stage feasible, by the fastest and most cost effective method possible, and at the lowest possible organizational level. While, the program has focused most of its efforts on training through its Certified Mediator Program, it also provides advice, guidance and policy to field offices and related workplace dispute resolution programs such as Employee Relations, Labor Relations, and Equal Employment Opportunity.

The program encourages Navy and Marine Corps activities to use alternatives to litigation or formal administrative procedures to the maximum extent practicable by assisting activities to create their own ADR processes and by providing training, advice and guidance, marketing and seed funding for activity programs.

The DON Workplace ADR Program has evolved to span the entire breadth of workplace disputes. The program is fully integrated into the Department's operations using Regional ADR Coordinators in the existing field office structure. Seven Human Resource Service Centers throughout the world provide mediation and other ADR services. Today, the program relies primarily on 77 collateral-duty certified mediators. With only seven certified mediators less than three years ago, this growth represents a notable accomplishment. In addition, certification requires successful completion of a rigorous four-tier training program, as well as on-going skills-building and regular re-certification.

The Washington, D.C.-Baltimore Metropolitan Area Sharing Neutrals Program is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It began as a pilot in the mid-1990s and moved to being an on-going program after one year. HHS assured its continued existence by taking on its administration in 1995. Initially, agencies used the program only to address Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) issues. Today, the program provides mediation services for a full range of workplace grievances and interpersonal disputes.

Over the past eight years, the Sharing Neutrals program has played a leading role in a Federal government effort to coordinate agency cooperation in mediating workplace disputes. It is an outstanding example of using existing government resources in creative ways to increase ADR opportunities. The sharing nature of the program allows mediators from one agency to mediate disputes involving employees of another agency in order to avoid the appearance of mediator bias or favoritism. The program has grown to include more than 40 participating Federal agencies and more than 200 mediators. The program ensures the quality of new mediators by requiring training, experience, and references, as well as a series of co-mediations with experienced mentor mediators.

In addition to supporting Washington D.C.-Baltimore metropolitan area agencies, the program has been a model for shared neutrals programs set up by Federal Executive Boards. This provides smaller offices throughout the country with the ability to develop and maintain their own ADR programs to meet their particular needs.