Sexual harassment claims can be very costly when they involve lawyers and court fees. Other, nonmonetary costs are involved as well.
Often a private situation that goes through litigation becomes an ugly, public affair of taking sides and pointing fingers. Mediation is an alternative to litigation that often is a preferable route for all parties. Mediation is not always successful, but there are many benefits when it works.
There are two main mediation models:
The goal of this model is to work together to find a solution and maintain relationships.
The involved parties each take turns telling their story to the mediator. The disputants do not talk to each other. The mediator identifies the issues and prepares the group for a productive discussion. In some situations, the victim and accused harasser may not be in the same room during this phase. Instead, the mediator may speak to each party separately.
The disputants face each other and listen to each other as each side explains their viewpoint. Then they respond to each other to show a level of understanding. The mediator rarely speaks during this phase. The victim and accused harasser both take turns telling their story and listening to the other's story. Each explains how they feel regarding the situation. The response section of this phase is extremely important and proves to the mediator that each party is able to rise above their own needs to move towards common ground.
In this phase, the mediator helps the disputants recognize a common ground and understanding between one another. The mediator gently nudges the two parties but for the most part the conversation is still focused on communication between the disputants to reach an understanding of one another.
In the final phase, the disputants find and agree on a resolution that benefits both parties. The mediator does not make suggestions or dictate the conversation in any way. This resolution must come from the disputants.
The goal of this model is to find an agreeable resolution so legal action is not needed. Situations that require this type of mediation are often intentional harassment cases where the victim and accused harasser cannot have a calm, productive conversation.
In the Settlement Conference Model, the mediator is a negotiator that listens to both parties as a group and separately to gather details and evidence. The mediator then presents possible settlement scenarios to the involved parties. The mediator remains in the middle and makes changes to the settlement until both parties agree on a solution.
Whether using the Four-Phase Model or the Settlement Conference Model, mediation can meet the needs of both parties and the employer. It is less expensive, provides confidentiality, avoids negative impacts on careers, and allows both sides to decide the outcome.