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Policies

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Policy 1404
Mediation

Date of Current Revision: November 2011
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 the authority to make policy concerning the effective management of employee relations. Where the board has not enacted specific policy, the authority is delegated to the President.

3. DEFINITIONS

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.

Qualified University Mediator
A member of the JMU mediator pool who has satisfactorily completed mediation training offered by JMU. 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.

Employee
An individual employed by JMU.

Mediation Coordinator
The individual responsible for implementing, coordinating, and supervising all facets of the mediation and grievance programs administered by JMU Human Resources.

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

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

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 the mediation coordinator or an HR Representative. Requests may be made in person, by telephone, by e-mail, or as a referral from a supervisor, department manager or director.
  • The mediation coordinator 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 mediation coordinator.
  • If the other party declines the invitation to mediate, the mediation will not occur and the requestor will be notified.
  • The 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 mediation coordinator 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 and the mediation effort will end.
  • The mediation coordinator may attend mediations for the purpose of evaluating the mediators and/or the mediation process. Participants will be informed of such in advance.

6.3 The 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. Participants are 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 in the mediation files maintained by the mediation coordinator.

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 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 the mediation, evidence of verbal or physical abuse or threats of bodily harm to self or others, evidence of violation of university policy or criminal activity, or evidence of sexual harassment.

7. RESPONSIBILITIES

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

The Director of Human Resources, as well as senior 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 the mediation coordinator in Human Resources or an HR Representative.

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: February, 2010
Approved by the President: June, 2008

Index Terms:

Mediation
Alternative Dispute Resolution