Workplace Mediation Maryland Dept of Natural Resources
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Questions and Answers about Workplace Mediation

What is the Workplace Mediation Program?
The Workplace Mediation Program was begun by the Office of Fair Practices to give employees another tool to use to resolve disputes which happen in the workplace.

What is Mediation?
Mediation is an informal yet structured process in which a neutral third person, called a mediator, helps disputing parties work through and resolve conflicts. The mediator does not give legal advice or decide how the dispute should be resolved. The mediator guides parties through a process in which they discuss the issues, generate options for resolving the dispute and design an agreement that meets their respective interests. Mediation offers the opportunity:

To be heard
To develop new ways of dealing with a dispute
To create your own solutions(s)
To save time, expense and the distress of living with unresolved conflict

Participation in mediation is voluntary for all parties, and the information shared during a mediation session is intended to be regarded as confidential by the parties and will not be revealed to anyone outside the mediation session by the mediator. Depending on the terms of any agreement reached by the parties, those terms may need to be reviewed and approved by the agency/department, the Employer/Employee Relations Office or the affected collective bargaining unit.

How is mediation requested?
A request for mediation can occur whenever the parties believe that mediation might help resolve a given dispute. Anyone may suggest mediation as an option. All parties must agree to participate in order for a mediation conference to take place.

How does the mediation process work?
Once a completed and signed request for mediation form is received by the Office of Fair Practice, the parties are asked when they can meet and a mediator is assigned. Most mediation sessions will usually be within one to two weeks.

Who may attend the mediation session?
The number of participants at each mediation session will be kept to a minimum in order to enhance effective problem-solving. In addition to the persons directly involved in the dispute, it may be desirable to include others with responsibility or authority for carrying out the terms of any agreement reached or persons having knowledge of the partiesí needs or specialized knowledge of the issues in the dispute. Parties may choose to bring a support person to the mediation session. The primary purpose of the mediation process, however, is to allow the parties to talk directly with each other and try to resolve their differences with the help of the mediator The Parties must agree on who can attend the session.

How long does a mediation session take?
Mediation sessions will be scheduled for two hours. Depending on the complexity of the issues and the number of participants, mediation could require more than one session.

What occurs during the mediation session?
The mediation session consists of several stages:

Introduction-the mediator reviews his/her role and explains the ground rules covering confidentiality, the use of caucus (meeting separately with each party), and other procedural rules. The mediator then outlines what will happen during the session and responds to the participantsí questions.

Sharing Points of View/Defining Issues- parties are given an opportunity to define the issues from their point of view. The mediator may ask questions to clarify or summarize what has been said.

Caucus- the mediator may use caucus, which is a chance for each party to meet privately with the mediator, to clarify issues and discuss possible solutions.

Discussion of Options for Resolution- the mediator helps the parties to identify a wide range of possible solutions, test those solutions and explore the consequences of not settling the dispute.

Agreement- if there is an agreement, the mediator will help the parties write it down. If agreement is reached, each party will receive a copy. Any other distribution of the agreement will be decided by the parties during the mediation. If the session does not result in an agreement, the parties are free to pursue any of the options they had before entering into mediation.

What types of disputes can be mediated under this project?
General workplace disputes such as: disputes between coworkers; supervisor/employee disputes; work team conflicts.

Who are the mediators?
Mediators are employee volunteers given special training to mediate workplace disputes. To assure neutrality and confidentiality, mediators will not be assigned to cases within their own units. Often two mediators will be assigned to facilitate the discussions.

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