PHRC offers mediation services as a method to resolve employment and public accommodation disputes quickly so that lengthy investigation hearings and/or court can be avoided. It is a voluntary, informal process in which a trained, neutral mediator helps people explore and resolve their differences together. The goal is to produce a settlement agreement that is acceptable to both parties.
Which cases are eligible for mediation?
The Mediation Program is currently only open to parties with employment or public accommodation complaints. The Mediation Program is currently only open to parties with employment or public accommodation complaints.
How Does a complainant sign up for the Mediation Program?
When a complainant files a questionnaire or attorney-drafted complaint with the PHRC regional office, the regional office reviews the filing for mediation eligibility. If the complaint is eligible for mediation, intake staff sends the complainant an Invitation to Mediate. The complainant then determines whether he/she thinks mediation is appropriate in his/her situation. If the complainant would like to attempt mediation, he/she send the Invitation back to the intake staff.
How can a respondent sign up for the Mediation Program?
If a complainant returns the signed “Invitation to Mediate” form, PHRC intake staff will notify the Mediation Program of the complainant’s interest. The Mediation Program staff contacts the respondent by phone to notify them that a complaint has been filed but is eligible for resolution through the Mediation Program. Respondent is given information about the complaint itself so they can make an informed decision about whether mediation services would be appropriate. Once a respondent notifies the Mediation Program staff that they are interested in mediation, the case is referred to a mediator.
Who are the PHRC mediators?
The PHRC utilizes a team to mediate its complaints which consists of volunteers and non-volunteers. Each person is trained as a mediator and has received additional training from the Commission on the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.
Do I need an attorney to participate in the Mediation Program?
You may bring an attorney to the mediation session, but an attorney is not required. If you choose not to bring an attorney you may bring a friend or relative for support.
What happens after mediation session is held?
If the parties execute a settlement agreement at the mediation session the charge that has been filed with PHRC will be withdrawn and no formal investigation will take place. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement the case will be returned to the regional office for investigation.
Mediation offers a number of benefits including:
- Mediation is
confidential under Pennsylvania law. This allows the parties the freedom to express themselves without fear of what they say being held against them. The mediator does not keep any notes of the discussions that take place during the mediation session.
- PHRC offers mediation services to the parties
free of charge.
- Mediation is
voluntary meaning either party can terminate participation the Mediation Program at any time. If a party decides not to mediate or if the mediation services do not result in a settlement agreement, the case is returned to the appropriate regional office for investigation.
- Mediation is
fast. The Program has been designed to take place before the investigation begins meaning before fees and damages have time to pile up. As soon as a mediator is assigned to the case, the parties have 30 days to schedule the mediation session.
- The mediators are
neutral so they have no stake in the outcome.
- Mediation is convenient. The mediators will attempt to schedule the mediation sessions as close to the parties’ geographical location as possible.
- Mediation provides an opportunity to
clarify the issues that led to the charge being filed in the first place and allows each party to clear up any misunderstandings.
- A settlement does not constitute an admission by an employer of a violation of any state or federal anti-discrimination laws.
- Mediation allows parties to be as
creative as they desire in their settlements. The parties are not confined to what remedies would be available to them under state or federal law.
The Mediation Process