“A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.”

Alexander Pope

What to Expect at Mediation:

So your case is going to mediation. What does that mean? First, it’s important for you to know what is not going to happen at mediation. Mediation is a voluntary process even though it is court ordered or requested by one of the parties. By voluntary, this means that no one is going to make a decision for you or force you to accept a resolution of your case.

Mediation is a process where a neutral person, called a mediator, acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a dispute between two parties. Mediation is an informal, non-adversarial process with the objective of helping the parties reach a mutually acceptable and voluntary resolution. In mediation, decision making authority rests with the parties.

I have been selected by the parties to mediate, in part, because I am an experienced employment lawyer. I have litigated and tried employment cases over many years. Before accepting this case as a mediator, I have determined that I have no “conflict” or interest in the parties or the outcome. I will be “neutral,” with no “stake” in the case for either side.

Mediators are trained in locating the issues that will be important when the case is tried. The role of the mediator includes assisting the parties and identifying the issues, fostering joint problem-solving and exploring resolution alternatives. The mediator’s goal is to explore what the parties are seeking through the litigation to see if there is a resolution available that is satisfactory to both sides.

A mediator is decidedly not a judge. No one is going to rule on or decide on your case at mediation. The mediator will not tell you how he thinks a judge or jury will rule on your case! He will not predict what he thinks will happen when your case goes to court. No legal advice will be rendered by the mediator. Further, the mediator will not make any decision that will bind or affect your case as it proceeds through the court system.

The Process:

Every case is unique. However, I will usually begin a mediation with both parties in a joint meeting. I will explain the mediation process and what I anticipate happening during the day. Then I will turn to the employee/plaintiff and give his or her lawyer a chance to tell their story. After the employee’s story is heard, I will ask the employer to respond and tell their story. This begins a process of gathering information, clarifying interests and generating options. I will be attempting to anticipate each party’s concerns and generate options that deal with those concerns.

One purpose of a joint meeting between the parties will be to give each side an opportunity to hear the arguments that will be made by the other side when the case goes to court. I may ask questions about your case and how certain facts and events will be portrayed at trial. These are questions that a judge or jury may think about as your case proceeds. These may be questions that you and your lawyer have already thought about. When you hear an outside “neutral” ask these questions, however, it may give you a different perspective in evaluating how another may view what happened in your work situation.

Who Should Attend the Mediation?
Mediation requires that each party have a representative who has authority to resolve the case. I will insist that the other side have a representative in attendance with full authority to resolve all of the claims in the case. I will require you to do the same. Usually it is not necessary for a spouse to attend an employment mediation. However, if you are uncomfortable with resolving your claims without at least telling your spouse about that resolution, you may want to make arrangements to have your spouse available by telephone during the day to discuss the progress of the mediation.
How does the process work?

After giving the parties the opportunity to hear the other side’s story, I will normally place the parties in different rooms and will work back and forth between the parties. Part of the process will be for me to select and assess different options for the parties. I will be listening, focusing and asking questions to try to determine what the parties really want. What are their concerns? I will be trying to come up with creative ideas that might meet the different interests of the parties. In addition, I will be looking for objective criteria or standards that can help both sides figure out what is a fair resolution of the matter.

One of the goals that you should set for the mediation is to listen to help you evaluate your chances of success. The analysis of your case, which is usually jointly reached by you and your lawyer, will play an important part in evaluating what you would like to see as a result.

Do you have to worry about what you say during mediation?

All that occurs during the mediation process will be confidential. Confidential means that what is said at mediation is not discussed with anyone who did not attend the mediation. Whatever occurs or is said also may not be revealed in any subsequent legal proceedings. All parties agree not to institute any legal action based on the mediation or to testify or produce any records concerning what happened at mediation.

The parties will be required not to make any public statements concerning the mediation. All inquiries from the news media or other interested parties should be directed to me. If contacted, I will only acknowledge the existence of the mediation and report that the parties are attempting to negotiate an acceptable resolution to the dispute.

The entire mediation process is confidential. All offers, promises and statements, whether oral or written, made during the mediation, by the parties or their attorneys, will be confidential. Offers, promises and statements will not be disclosed to any outside persons and the mediator will only disclose your statements and comments to the other side with your permission. Unless the parties agree otherwise, I will only report to the court whether the case was settled, was adjourned or continued for further mediation, or was terminated because settlement was not possible and I have declared an impasse.

How long will mediation take?

You should plan on and come prepared to devote the entire day to your mediation. In my experience, employment mediations require more time than other types of mediation. I have participated in many employment mediations. Rarely have I seen an employment mediation resolved in less than a day. Your case may be different and let’s hope that it is! What I have observed, however, is that employment cases have emotions and, for this reason, the parties need time to express and digest their feelings.

During the process it may seem like I am spending an inordinate amount of time with the other side. Don’t read anything into this or think that I am not giving your side of the case a fair hearing. Instead, I may just feel that more time is needed to work with the other side. Remember, mediation is a voluntary process. There is no need for you to be stressed or concerned about mediation. No one at mediation is going to force you to accept a resolution that is not in your best interest.

Why Mediation is Important:

Mediation is important because it is an opportunity for you to participate in how your case is decided! That’s right. The great advantage that you have at mediation is that the parties will decide how the case will be resolved. If your case is not resolved prior to trial, our legal system provides that a judge and/or a jury will decide the case for you. You will not be involved as a decision-maker. Of course, you (or your attorney) will be able to argue and present facts, evidence and witnesses to the decision-makers. If they rule in your favor, that will be the result you want and you will be pleased. If, however, they don’t see the case the way that you see it, they can rule differently--dividing the case, or even ruling against you. In mediation, however, you will participate and decide how the case is resolved. No one else will be making decisions for you.

This letter complies with Rule 10.420 of the Florida Rules for Certified and Court-Appointed Mediators. If you need any special accommodation or special foods while at our offices, please let me know. I do not want any distraction to lessen your focus during our sessions. I am confident that a resolution of your case can be reached on terms that you can live with. I look forward to meeting and working with you.

G. Thomas Harper
September, 2009



The Arbitration Offices of G. Thomas Harper

1912 Hamilton Street
Suite 205
Jacksonville, Fl 32210

(904) 396 3000
(Fax) 800 393 5977


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