Virtual Mediation- Not Just a COVID-19 Fad
The EEOC published a press release on June 1, 2022, indicating that it will continue indefinitely its virtual mediation program as an option for parties involved in the Commission’s Alternate Dispute Resolution program. This move comes after two studies conducted on the EEOC’s mediation process reported “overwhelming satisfaction” with the virtual program. As many mediators and arbitrators have found over the past two years, virtual mediations offer some considerable benefits over in-person mediation, including the ability to engage directly with decision makers wherever they are located; the ease of utilizing the various virtual platforms for even the most novice computer/cell phone/tablet users; the simplicity of using programs such as DocuSign for settlement agreements, with all signers receiving a copy instantly.
According to one study on the EEOC’s virtual program, 98% of employers and 92% of charging parties responded they would be willing to participate in the EEOC’s virtual mediation program again if they were a party to an EEOC charge. That same study found that two-thirds of the participants stated they would prefer to mediate online even if negotiating in-person were an option. Reasons include that virtual mediation was less stressful, cheaper, and offered more flexibility. Indeed, JAMS mediator and arbitrator Hon. Diane Welsh believes virtual mediations are here to stay, citing additional benefits such as de-escalation of emotion, more efficient negotiations, more civility, and more focused presentations.
In fact, for those worried about the efficacy of virtual mediations, a separate study conducted on the EEOC, in which mediators responded, lauded the flexibility and ease of access of video mediation, also reporting that it increases access to justice and that the settlements reached are comparable, if not better, for both parties than the ones reached in person. The evidence seems point to the fact that virtual mediations are not merely a COVID-19 fad, but most likely will become a permanent fixture in the legal landscape, as well.
The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.