Offices in Detroit, Grand Rapids & Traverse City. Call 248.644.0077

Employment Law: Pre-Arbitration & Negotiation Mediation

Issue

When a national service provider, facing market and economic issues, dismissed a performing long-time employee, how did they come together to resolve the employee’s wrongful termination claims?

What Happened?

In light of stiff competition and narrowing margins, the company was compelled to implement cost-cutting measures, including the consolidation of sales territories and adjusting employee responsibilities.  The employee, terminated as part of the restricting, asserted that she was better qualified and had received more favorable performance reviews than other male workers who had not been terminated.

Special Considerations:

  • The parties’ employment contract required a multi-tiered dispute resolution process involving peer review, mediation, and arbitration.
  • Although dissatisfied with the outcome of the peer review process, the former employee could not realistically afford to retain an attorney for an arbitration proceeding.
  • The company was concerned about the discriminatory nature of the former employee’s allegations, the history of some of the personnel involved, and the negative publicity that might result from protracted proceedings.
  • Additionally, the former employee had a number of contacts within a relatively small community of people that could influence the company’s business.

How Did PREMi Help?

With the parties agreement upon the selection of a private facilitator, the PREMi mediator:

  • To expedite the process and keep costs low, the mediator arranged with both parties to travel out out-of-state and conduct the mediation in the former employee’s hometown.
  • The mediator conducted a series of separate and joint meetings with the parties throughout the one-day proceeding.
  • By focusing on the parties’ distinct positions and pain points, the mediator helped them recognize the strengths and weaknesses of their respective arguments, and brought them together to identify and build upon common areas of agreement.

What Was the Outcome?

The PREMi mediator facilitated a solution that met both parties’ ultimate needs by:

  • Focusing on the positives of the parties’ previous employment relationship
  • Encouraging the company to provide its former employee with outsourcing support including a series of modest payments to help her reestablish herself in the work force, a prior employment letter with mutually acceptable language about the employee’s performance and reason for termination, and assistance with upgrading her resume and her search for new employment
  • Protecting both the company’s public reputation and the former employee’s opportunities for new employment by obtaining agreement that the terms of the settlement be kept confidential
  • Having the parties agree to not publicly disparage one another, and in the case of the former employee, not to engage in any activities or communications intended to impede the company’s business
  • Fostering a respectful environment that resulted in each of the parties’ representatives concluding the mediation process by shaking hands and thanking one another for their cooperation in resolving what had initially been perceived as an irreconcilable dispute

__________________

Disclaimer: This summary is illustrative of the types of cases and the manner in which the PREMI associate dealt with the matter. Care has been taken to avoid disclosure of sensitive or confidential information.