Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
The OSC Mediation Program
The OSC offers Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to resolve
selected prohibited personnel practice complaints. ADR, used in appropriate circumstances,
can yield results that are faster, less expensive, and less contentious than traditional
OSC complaint processing. The OSC primarily uses mediation to
provide parties the opportunity to resolve an OSC complaint without the need for a lengthy
investigation or costly litigation.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is an informal process in which
a neutral third party - the mediator - assists the opposing parties in reaching a
voluntary, negotiated resolution of the complaint. Mediation is different from other
forms of dispute resolution in that the parties participate voluntarily, and the mediator
has no authority to make a decision. The decision-making power rests in the hands of
How Does Mediation Work?
Mediation gives the parties the opportunity to discuss the issues raised in the complaint,
clear up misunderstandings, find areas of agreement and, ultimately, to incorporate those areas of agreement
into a final resolution of the complaint. The mediator focuses the attention of the parties
upon their needs and interests rather than on their stated positions.
Participation in the OSC Mediation Program
is voluntary. In selected cases that are slated for referral to OSCs Investigation
and Prosecution Division, the OSC ADR Specialist contacts the complainant and the employing agency to
invite them to participate in the mediation program. If both parties agree, OSC
schedules a Mediation Session. OSC mediators, who have extensive mediation training
and experience in federal personnel law, conduct a mediation session at a mutually
convenient time and location. If mediation results in resolution, the agreement is
put into writing and becomes binding on both parties.
Advantages of Mediation
Many parties prefer mediation as a dispute resolution
process because it is:
- INFORMAL. The process is informal and flexible; attorneys are not necessary. There are no
formal rules of evidence and no witnesses.
- CONFIDENTIAL. Mediation is a confidential process. The mediators will not disclose any
information revealed during the mediation. The sessions are not tape-recorded or transcribed. At
the conclusion of the mediation, mediators destroy any notes they took during the mediation session.
- QUICK AND INEXPENSIVE. When parties want to get on with their business and their lives,
mediation may be desirable as a means of producing rapid results. The majority of mediations are
completed in one or two sessions.
Moreover, mediation generally produces or promotes:
- GREATER DEGREE OF PARTY CONTROL. Parties
who negotiate their own settlements have more control over the outcome of their dispute.
Parties have an equal say in the process. There is no determination of fault, but rather,
the parties reach a mutually agreeable resolution to their conflict.
- PRESERVATION OF RELATIONSHIPS. Many disputes occur in the context of ongoing work relationships.
Mediated settlements that address all parties interests often preserve working relationships in ways
that would not be possible in a win/lose decision-making procedure. Mediation can also make the termination
of a work relationship more amicable.
- MUTUALLY SATISFACTORY RESULTS.Parties are generally more satisfied with solutions that have
been mutually agreed upon, as opposed to solutions that are imposed by a third party decision-maker.
- COMPREHENSIVE AND CUSTOMIZED AGREEMENTS.
Mediated agreements often help resolve procedural and interpersonal issues that are not
necessarily susceptible to legal determination. The parties can tailor their settlement to
their particular situation and attend to the fine details of implementation.
- A FOUNDATION FOR FUTURE PROBLEM-SOLVING.
After a mediation resolution, if a subsequent dispute occurs, parties are more likely
to utilize a cooperative forum of problem-solving to resolve their differences than to
pursue an adversarial approach.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Does mediation work?
Answer: While each case is unique, general statistics from a wide range of forums indicate
that mediation resolves over 70% of disputes.
Question: Does OSC require the
parties to participate in mediation?
Answer: No. Participation is strictly voluntary.
Question: What happens if one
party declines OSC's invitation to mediate, or decides to terminate mediation before
resolution of the complaint?
Answer: In either case, the complaint will be assigned to the Investigation and
Prosecution Division, as
it would have been had mediation not been offered to the parties.
Question: Who mediates OSC
Answer: OSC cases are conducted by mediators who are experienced and trained in mediation
and federal personnel law. OSC maintains a roster of trained mediators on staff. All
internal OSC mediators are neutral unbiased professionals with no stake in the outcome of
the mediation process.
Question: Who attends the
Answer: The complainant and a representative from the employing agency attend the
mediation. While it is not necessary to have an attorney or other representative
attend the session, either party may choose to do so. It is essential, however, that the
individuals attending the mediation session have the authority necessary to resolve the
Question: How long does the
mediation process take?
Answer: The length of the mediation session depends upon the complexity of the case and
willingness of the parties to resolve the dispute. Most mediations are completed in eight
hours or less. More complex cases may call for a second mediation session.
Question: What happens if the
mediation does not result in resolution?
Answer: The parties risk nothing by participating in mediation. If resolution is not
achieved, the complaint is assigned to the Investigation and Prosecution Division, as it would have been
had the parties not tried mediation.
Question: Are all OSC complaints eligible for
Answer: No. The OSC ADR Unit evaluates each complaint that has been slated for referral to
OSC's Investigation and Prosecution Division to determine whether it is appropriate for mediation.
The factors considered include the nature of the case, the relationship of the parties,
the complexity of the case, and the relief sought by the complainant. Allegations that do
not warrant referral to the Investigation and Prosecution Division are not eligible for mediation.
Question: Can a complaint that
is already in the Investigation and Prosecution Division be mediated?
Answer: Mediation may be available as an option at the investigation and prosecution
stages at the discretion of OSC.
Mediation Program Contact Information
U.S. Office of Special Counsel
Alternative Dispute Resolution Unit
1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 218
Washington, D.C. 20036-4505
Tel: (202) 254-3600