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Alternative Dispute Resolution

  BIA & BIE Mediation Program

The BIA & BIE partners with the Department of Interior's Office of Collaborative Action and Dispute Resolution Program to facilitate the Mediation process.  The Mediation Program offers Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education employees and managers the opportunity to resolve workplace, collective bargaining agreement and other disputes through the use of mediation.  Mediation is a successful form of conflict resolution to resolve workplace conflict and can be used in the informal and formal complaint process.  We encourage referrals of conflicts at as early a stage as possible, believing that this offers the best opportunity for a lasting resolution.  

Depending on the availability and the nature of the dispute, the program uses mediators from the Office of Collaborative Action and Dispute Resolution, mediators from other federal agencies, or professional mediators under contract with the Department of Interior.  Mediations are confidential, and information is shared only with those within the agency with a need to know in order to implement or approve a settlement agreement.

Benefits of Mediation
  • The process is voluntary and both parties participate willingly;
  • Informal Communication - Absence of complicated procedure, documentation, witness testimony, investigation, and formal records;
  • Opportunity for early dialogue - Early discussion before possible escalation of issue;
  • The presence of a neutral third party to facilitate discussion - A resolution is not imposed by the neutral third party, rather the mediator is there to facilitate productive discussion between the parties;
  • Opportunity to reach creative resolution - The parties, in most instances, are free to explore a creative solution to the issues presented and there is no requirement for any admission of guilt in the process;
  • The process is confidential - Participants sign a pledge prior to the session, and nothing said during the mediation session(s) will be used in future proceedings if the matter is not resolved;
  • Allows the parties to take a proactive approach - Mediation allows the parties to take a hands-on approach to resolving their issues without proceeding to the formal administrative process and then possibly to federal court; and
  • Fast - Mediation, in most cases, will allow the parties to resolve issues in a matter of days, and return to a productive working relationship.
Mediation Process

Mediation is voluntary and confidential where participants are able to resolve their conflict with the assistance of a trained mediator.  The mediator, an impartial third party, facilitates the process and has no personal interests or preconceived biases toward the resolution. Mediators are carefully chosen from the Office of Collaborative Action and Dispute Resolution or other federal agencies who is impartial and has no stake in the outcome of mediation. 

The initial step of the mediation process begins with a joint session. At the beginning of the joint session, the mediator clarifies his/her role in the mediation process and those of the parties. Next, each party to the dispute tells his or her side of the story without interruption. Following the joint session, the mediator meets with each party separately- this is known as a caucus which is designed to discuss the issues in greater detail and to gain a better sense of how the parties would like the issues resolved. During the individual caucuses, the mediator attempts to help the parties identify relevant issues, dismiss possible misconceptions based on inadequate or lack of information, and try to find a meaningful way to solve their problem that benefits both parties. After the caucuses, the mediator meets again with the parties jointly and encourages the parties to discuss their issues using interest-based techniques.

What happens after the parties reach a resolution?

After the parties agree to resolve the issues presented during mediation, the mediator will ask the parties to enter into a tentative agreement. The terms of the agreement will be captured by the mediator, reviewed with the parties, and sent to the EEO Counselor to draft a binding settlement agreement. All parties shall be given an opportunity to review the agreement and after the parties sign the final agreement, the complaint is resolved and no further processing is required.

What happens if the issues presented are not resolved through mediation?

If the issues are not resolved through mediation, the mediator will ask the parties to complete a mediation evaluation form. The mediator will instruct the parties that the matter will be referred back to the assigned EEO counselor. The EEO counselor will hold a final interview with the complainant. At this point, the complainant has the option of withdrawing the informal complaint or receiving a Notice of Right to File a complaint of discrimination (NRTF), which affords him/her the opportunity to file a formal complaint.

 

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