What is mediation?
“Mediation” refers to a formal settlement negotiation with an employer that is facilitated by a neutral third party (“mediator”). The goal of mediation is to arrive at a mutually beneficial outcome to a lawsuit or potential lawsuit, often involving the employer’s payment of an amount to an employee to settle the claim and release the employer from the lawsuit. The employer and employee can agree to mediate at any time, and are, in fact, often required by law to discuss a case’s prospects for settlement via mediation. The mediator is simply a neutral third party hired by both parties to facilitate a negotiated settlement to the dispute. Many mediators are often experienced employment law attorneys or former judges.
What should I expect during the mediation process?
Generally, the mediation process first involves a meeting between all parties—the employee and attorney, the employer and attorney, and the mediator, all in one location agreed upon by the parties (generally, the offices of the employee’s or employer’s attorney). The mediator will introduce his or herself to the parties, describe the process, and then, typically, encourage each party’s attorney to give an opening statement summarizing each respective side of the case. After this opening session, the employer and employee will separate into private rooms with their attorneys, and the mediator will then visit with each party and candidly discuss the merits of the case—sometimes repeatedly in and out of each party’s “camp” for a few hours, or sometimes as long as an entire day or more. The mediator engages in a sort of “shuttle diplomacy” between the parties and their attorneys. The mediator helps the parties see the other side of the case in a different light, if warranted. His or her neutral third party analysis often aids employers in recognizing the inherent risks and strengths in an employee’s case.
All details discussed during the mediation process are confidential and may not be used in later litigation. This candid, confidential process frequently results in the settlement of a case for an amount deemed by the client to be satisfactory before a lawsuit is ever filed or, in some cases, as late as a few weeks before trial. The mediation may also result in an “impasse,” which is a finding made by the mediator that there is no reasonable hope of resolving the case through mediation.
How Do the Attorneys at Van Kampen Law Approach Mediation Services?
Our North Carolina employment attorneys limit their practice to the representation of employees in employment law disputes and believe comprehensive service to clients involves both an approach of strong and aggressive legal advocacy, designed to win cases at a jury trial following a diligently exacting and thorough discovery process, along with a steady belief in the building of professional relationships with employers and their attorneys. We believe that theses relationships with employers involves candid communications between the employer, employee, and all respective attorneys. This balanced approach translates into outstanding service for our clients. We understand that litigation is very expensive, time consuming, and at times mentally and emotionally exhausting. Therefore, we strive to facilitate an early and fair resolution to employment law disputes based on each client’s unique goals.
Although the ultimate decision to engage in the pre-trial settlement of a case rests with each client, we believe that an open and candid dialogue with an employer—through formal mediation—can be crucially helpful to the negotiation of a pre-trial settlement. Thus, in many cases we strongly believe in mediation: it is often exceedingly helpful to hire a neutral third party to facilitate the pre-trial settlement negotiation process. Mediators frequently assist stubborn or closed-minded employers in viewing our clients’ cases’ objective strengths and the inherent risks involved in allowing such strong cases to proceed to a trial by jury.
Regardless of a mediation’s outcome, Van Kampen Law’s attorneys strongly believe that the building of a candid, strong, and professional relationship with an employer and its attorney is of great service to obtaining a favorable outcome for each and every client, and that mediation is a great way to facilitate this process. While our attorneys do take a comprehensively strong and aggressive strategy to win each and every case at trial, they are ultimately dedicated, first and foremost, to obtaining a result that is in the best interests of each and every client based on his or her unique goals. For these reasons, we frequently encourage clients to utilize the formal negotiation process of mediation as a way to save money, save time, and resolve a case early and amicably.