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Policy 1404
Mediation

Date of Current Revision: April 2015
Primary Responsible Officer: Director of Human Resources

1. PURPOSE

While James Madison University has established procedures for the resolution of grievances, the university also has alternative dispute resolution processes. Employee Mediation Services, a mediation program for university employees, provides a more collegial, less adversarial, and thus a more satisfying means to resolve conflicts.

2. AUTHORITY

The Board of Visitors has been authorized by the Commonwealth of Virginia to govern James Madison University. See Code of Virginia section 23-164.6; 23-9.2:3. The board has delegated the authority to manage the university to the president.

3. DEFINITIONS

Employee
Any person employed by JMU in any capacity.

Group Mediation
Mediation of a dispute among several employees in a work unit such as a team, office or department.

Harassment
A form of discrimination consisting of unwelcome or offensive physical, verbal or written conduct that shows aversion or hostility toward a person on the basis of age, color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, parental status, political affiliation, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or veteran status in the following situations:

1. When submitting to or rejecting the conduct is made the basis for an evaluation, personnel action, or recommendation for a personnel action affecting an employee, or an evaluation, action or recommendation for an action affecting a student; or

2. When the conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the performance of an employee or a student, and the conduct creates a hostile, intimidating or offensive learning or working environment.

Harassment specifically includes instances of sexual violence of any type perpetrated against a member of the university community.

Mediation
A process by which participants, with the assistance of trained mediators, identify disputed issues, share perspectives, develop options, consider possible solutions, and seek to reach a mutually acceptable resolution to their dispute. Participants in mediation make informed and deliberate decisions to resolve past problems and discuss future relationships directly and confidentially.

Mediation Agreement
A summary of the plan of action agreed upon by the parties during their mediated session.

Mediation Coordinator
The HR consultant responsible for coordinating and administering all facets of the mediation request submitted by the university employee. The mediation coordinator is normally the HR consultant for the individual(s) requesting mediation.

Qualified University Mediator
A member of the JMU mediator pool who has satisfactorily completed mediation training. The mediator is an impartial third party who assists participants in reaching mutually acceptable solutions to their disputed issues. The mediator does not have the authority to overturn disciplinary notices, decide the outcome, nor impose a resolution.

Two-Party Mediation
Mediation of a dispute, primarily between two employees who may be co-workers or in a reporting relationship.

4. APPLICABILITY

This policy is applicable to all employees of the university.

5. POLICY

It is the policy of JMU to resolve work place disputes through non-adversarial means such as mediation whenever possible. Participation in mediation will be voluntary. A request for mediation may be made by an employee, a supervisor or a member of management as a means to resolve workplace disputes

Every effort should be made by the mediation coordinator and participants to achieve a mediation schedule that does not hinder university operations. Supervisors are required to allow employees to participate in the mediation process unless participation would significantly hinder university operations.

6. PROCEDURES

6.1 Mediation Preparation

  • A request for mediation is made by contacting an HR consultant or the Human Resources office. Requests may be made in person, by telephone, by email, or as a referral from a supervisor, department manager or director.
  • The HR consultant contacts the individual(s) making the request, completes an initial assessment, and determines the appropriateness of the situation for mediation. If the situation is not deemed appropriate for mediation, the person making the request is notified by the HR consultant.
  • If the other party declines the invitation to mediate, the mediation will not occur and the requestor will be notified.
  • The HR consultant acting as mediation coordinator selects two mediators from the pool of qualified university mediators.
  • All mediations will have at least one mediator present, with two co-mediators present whenever possible.
  • The HR consultant provides written notification to participants of the date, time, and location of the mediation. The appropriate supervisor(s) are notified to minimize disruption to normal university operations. A supervisor with concerns that a scheduled mediation will significantly hinder university operations must notify the mediation coordinator to arrange an alternate time.
  • A pre-mediation meeting with the mediators and the mediation coordinator is scheduled to distribute information and discuss other pertinent details.

6.2 Mediation

  • The mediation will be held in a private, neutral location with minimal potential for distraction.
  • All participants must agree to changes of deadlines or additional meetings.
  • The supervisor(s) must also agree to changes of deadlines or additional meetings.
  • Either party may withdraw from participation any time during the process or end the mediation effort.

6.3 The Mediation Agreement

  • At the conclusion of mediation, the mediators summarize information resulting from the mediation session and draft the participants’ agreement. The agreement is signed by the participants and mediators and given to the mediation coordinator for review.
  • Each participant receives a copy of their final agreement from the mediation coordinator.
  • Each participant is given a mediation process evaluation form to complete.
  • The supervisor(s), department manager, or director making the request for mediation receives a copy of the signed agreement.
  • The original signed agreement resides with the HR consultant coordinating the mediation.

6.4 Confidentiality

The goal of mediation is to empower participants to share information openly and honestly without fear of embarrassment or retaliation. Participant assurance from management that no retaliation will result from engaging in mediation is critical to the process. What is said in mediation must not be used in any way against the participants before, during, or after the mediation.

At the beginning of the mediation, participants commit to keeping the contents of the mediation session confidential. Mediators and participants must treat as confidential all writings and all communications made before, during, or in connection with the mediation at all times.

The scope of the confidentiality should be discussed before the commitment is made. Disclosing the fact that mediation took place is not a breach of confidentiality.

Exceptions to confidentiality include:

  • evidence of sexual harassment
  • evidence of verbal or physical abuse
  • evidence of suspected child abuse or neglect
  • evidence of violation of university policy or criminal activity
  • information shared during the mediation that is known or could be learned through other means
  • specific information that participants agree to share outside the mediation
  • the final mediated agreement, when appropriate
  • threats of bodily harm to self or to others

The mediator(s) may not be called upon, at any time, by the participants of mediation as a witness in any administrative or legal proceeding, except regarding the occurrence of:

  • evidence of sexual harassment,
  • evidence of verbal or physical abuse
  • evidence of suspected child abuse or neglect
  • evidence of violation of university policy or criminal activity
  • threats of bodily harm to self or to others

7. RESPONSIBILITIES

The Director of Human Resources is responsible for the consistent application of this policy.

The Director of Human Resources, as well as vice presidents, assistant or associate vice presidents, deans, directors, and department heads, are to ensure that employees are informed of this policy. Questions related to the application of this policy should be directed to Human Resources or to an HR consultant.

In addition, directors are responsible for their department's prompt, effective adherence to this policy.

8. SANCTIONS

Sanctions will be commensurate with the severity and/or frequency of the offense and may include termination of employment.

9. EXCLUSIONS

Mediation is not available to resolve incidents involving allegations of university policy violations, criminal violations or legal violations.

This policy does not apply to students or to student workers. Student workers and their supervisors should bring disputes to the attention of the Student Work Experience Center.

10. INTERPRETATION

The authority to interpret this policy rests with the President, and is generally delegated to the Director of Human Resources.

Previous version: November 2011
Approved by the President: June 2008