CPR Releases Update to Employment-Related Mass Claims Protocol

The International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR), working with a diverse task force of leaders in employment law and alternative dispute resolution (ADR), has launched an updated version of its Employment-Related Mass Claims Protocol (the “Protocol”). The Task Force included leading counsel from the plaintiff’s bar, in-house employment counsel, corporate defense attorneys and neutrals (arbitrators and mediators).

The original Protocol was launched in November 2019.  It was reviewed by U.S. District Court Judge Edward M. Chen, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, in November 2020, in McGrath v. DoorDash, Inc., No. 19-cv-05279 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 5, 2020), who found that “the terms of the Mass-Claims Protocol appear fair.”  Working together over the past 10 months, the Task Force sought to make improvements and further enhance the Protocol. 

An initial set of revisions by the Task Force was released in April 2021, and incorporated CPR’s then newly-launched Administered Employment Arbitration Rules as well as other clarifying changes. See CPR Speaks, April 14, 2021.  Since then, the Task Force has continued to work together to develop the current version of the Protocol, which includes a novel approach to selecting neutrals that will enhance both efficiency and diversity.  The updated version also provides greater detail in describing the mediation process and other procedures.

The procedure outlined in the Protocol applies where it has been incorporated into an agreement between the parties, either before or after a dispute arises, and where there are 30 or more similar cases filed with CPR against one company.

The procedure requires fast track arbitration of randomly selected test cases while proceedings in the other cases are paused. The awards from those cases are anonymized and provided to a mediator to work with the parties and their counsel in trying to identify a global framework for resolving the remaining cases.  If the mediation is successful, each person who brought an arbitration will be presented with an opportunity to settle their case according to the global framework or to proceed with their arbitration. If the mediation fails to identify a global framework, then any of the parties may opt out of the arbitration process and go to court.

Distinguishing features of the Protocol include:

  • Requiring within the Protocol itself that certain due process protections be afforded to employees or others who file cases.
  • A novel fee structure that does not require the company to pay all filing fees up front but instead collects an upfront initiation fee followed by fees paid as each case is addressed.
  • Consistent with CPR’s Diversity Commitment, nominating a diverse pool of arbitrators from which the parties will choose the arbitrators who ultimately will resolve their cases.
  • Innovative mechanisms to encourage all parties to reach a faster resolution of their cases, providing parties with the opportunity and incentives to reach a global framework for resolving all of their cases before proceeding with more arbitrations.

In keeping with its commitment to the parties, CPR sets forth the procedures in detail so that the parties may understand what is expected of them and are provided a practical pathway toward resolution. CPR is also willing to work with the parties on agreed-upon variations to these procedures.

“It has been a privilege to work with and be guided by the experiences and perspectives of this Task Force,” noted Allen Waxman, President & CEO of CPR, adding, “With the benefit of the members’ input, the Protocol offers an innovative procedure for employers and their employees or contractors to resolve their disputes when many arise at once – providing the parties with more options toward finding a resolution.”

Jahan Sagafi, partner of Outten & Golden, Task Force Co-Chair, and a lawyer who frequently represents workers in employment disputes, stated that “while I am very concerned about Supreme Court precedent allowing employers to force workers to submit to individual arbitration, given those realities, CPR’s Protocol provides a fair process to resolve those claims efficiently.  CPR should be commended for considering a variety of perspectives from the Task Force in completing the Protocol.”

“CPR’s Protocol represents a valuable contribution toward the resolution of many similar employment claims,” commented Task Force Co-Chair Aaron Warshaw, a partner in Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, a law firm that represents management and companies in labor disputes, “The Protocol is an important option for companies putting in place arbitration programs and one that should be seriously considered.”

“CPR has consistently been a leader in offering innovative ways to resolve disputes,” observed the Honorable Timothy K. Lewis, Task Force member, arbitrator and a retired judge on the U.S. District Court and Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, adding, “The Protocol is another such offering for the complex challenges posed by the filing of a mass of cases. Its procedures reflect careful considerations to foster resolution in a fair and efficient fashion. In addition, the Protocol’s commitment to greater diversity in the pool of candidates who will be selected to arbitrate cases is also a meaningful step in addressing the lack of diversity and inclusion in the field of ADR.”

For more information, see the File a Case or Employment Disputes sections of CPR’s website, or contact Helena Tavares Erickson at herickson@cpradr.org.  Also review Frequently Asked Questions for the Protocol.

ABOUT CPR

Established in 1977, CPR is an independent nonprofit organization that promotes the prevention and resolution of conflict to better enable purpose.

The CPR Institute drives a global prevention and dispute resolution culture through the thought leadership of its diverse member companies, leading mediators and arbitrators, law firms, individual practitioners, and academics. It convenes committees to share best practices and develop innovative tools. It connects thought leaders through global, regional, and smaller events. It publishes a monthly journal on related topics and advocates for expanding the capacity for dispute prevention and resolution globally through a variety of initiatives.

CPR Dispute Resolution provides leading edge dispute management services – mediation, arbitration, early neutral evaluation, dispute review boards and others – as well as training and education. It is uniquely positioned to resolve disputes by leveraging the resources generated by the leaders who participate in the CPR Institute.  It has deep experience in dispute management, a deep bench on its global Panel of Distinguished Neutrals, and deep expertise across a variety of subject areas.

Visit cpradr.org to learn more.

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‘Understanding’ Mediator Gary Friedman on His Adventure in Politics

By Mylene Chan

Earlier this month, Gary Friedman, co-founder of the Center for Understanding in Conflict, of Santa Rosa, Calif., conducted a video breakfast roundtable titled “Inside Out: Confessions of a Mediator in Politics,” hosted by the Association for Conflict Resolution-Greater New York Chapter and the City University of New York Dispute Resolution Center at John Jay College.

Friedman’s talk focused on events described in a Politico article, “‘I Got Obama’d’: A California conflict-resolution guru entered politics thinking he could fix it. Instead, it brought a punishing counterattack.” The May 1 article, an excerpt from “High Conflict,” a book by Amanda Ripley published in June by Simon & Schuster (see https://bit.ly/3yT3ee0), can be found at https://politi.co/3iOX9tf.

The excerpt and book recount Friedman’s political term “on his local Community Services District Board of Directors, a five-member council in charge of area roads and water management,” in Muir Beach, Calif., from 2016 to 2021.

Friedman’s brief political life exemplifies that even experienced mediators can be easily pulled into an adversarial mode, away from peace-making. But, according to Friedman, if one refocuses, the Understanding Model of mediation, which Friedman developed with his Center for Understanding in Conflict partner Jack Himmelstein, can help resolve conflicts.

For more than 40 years, Friedman has lived in Muir Beach, which is governed by the five-member board.  Hoping to bring “reinvigorate democracy” in his hometown, according to the book excerpt, Friedman ran for office in 2015 and was elected. 

Unfortunately, during Friedman’s governance as board president, he violated principles of his Understanding Model. Friedman explained in his talk that he was blinded by power and the conflicts that were directly targeted him. As a result, he said his litigator inner-self emerged–he was a trial lawyer before turning to mediation–and he became defensive, combative, and aggressive.

Friedman said he ended up creating more polarization and alienated his community in what he coined his “period of derangement.”

Understanding, according to Friedman, is an underused power that has the potential to help people make better solutions. The loop of understanding, however, does not work if it is disingenuous. Friedman intimated that while governing in his village, he used understanding as lip service so that he could soften others in attempts to convince them that they were wrong. 

Friedman said that his Understanding Model is based on putting the responsibility on the disputants–not the professional–to solve the problem. This means believing in people and giving them power because ultimately it is the disputants who know best about what solutions will work.

But when Friedman acted as the board president, he said he took power from his constituents instead of giving power. Friedman did not believe in the people’s ability to solve problems themselves; Friedman said he felt he knew best.

Mediators practicing the Understanding Model are expected to proceed with the disputants by agreement on how to work together. By contrast, when Friedman was in charge, he explained that he made numerous unilateral decisions that angered his constituents or fellow board members.

For example, he eliminated the tradition of having snacks and socializing time at board meetings.  Even when constituents vehemently objected, he limited each person to three minutes of speaking time and prohibited anyone from raising issues not on the agenda.

Furthermore, in a town of just 250 people, Friedman established 23 subcommittees that were poorly attended. Friedman’s critics complained that he was arrogant, power hungry, and Napoleon-like.

Two years into a five-year term, Friedman was removed as board president. He said about himself, “I felt actually humiliated by my behavior . . . and how I became untethered.”  When Friedman saw how far he had fallen from his own ideals, he said he started to probe internally what was truly important to him and why.  He said his mediator “inner-self”–which depends on self-awareness–re-emerged.

Realizing that what he wanted was to help his neighbors understand each other and to make conflicts useful, Friedman began voting for his opposition intentionally to undo the conflicts he created.  He also blurred the lines between the old board members and his allies on the new board through voting on both sides. Most important, he said, he made efforts to genuinely connect and understand his constituents, one by one.

Before Friedman stepped down from the board, he reconciled with his community and accomplished some political agendas he set out to do initially.  Roads were repaired, the water rate was raised, and the tone of the meetings improved.

At the roundtable, Friedman noted that the Politico book excerpt has gotten a lot of attention. “I’ve been hearing from thousands of people that came out of the woodwork all over the world . . . and I think that my failure as a politician is really meant to encourage all of us, because I not only failed but I survived the failure.”

In the end, Friedman said he repaired the conflicts he created using the Understanding Model.

The Aug. 5 ACR/John Jay breakfast roundtable is available on video at https://bit.ly/3sku9Na. For another view of the event, see John Lande, “More on Gary Friedman’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Politics,” Indisputably.org (Aug. 8) (available at https://bit.ly/3k1EsSC).  

For more on the Understanding Model, see Mylene Chan, “Highlights from the June Session of the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation ‘Mediating Disputes’ Training,” CPR Speaks (June 24) (available at https://bit.ly/37SaTx2).

* * *

The author, an LLM candidate at Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, in Malibu, Calif., is a 2021 CPR Summer Intern.

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Highlights from Last Month’s Harvard Program on Negotiation’s Advanced Mediation Workshop on Mediating Complex Disputes

By Mylene Chan

The Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation conducted its Advanced Mediation Workshop: Mediating Complex Disputes from July 26-30. Forty-eight participants from diverse mediation practices around the world gathered to attend the July sessions taught by faculty members David Hoffman, Lawrence Susskind, Susan Podziba, Samuel Dinnar, and Audrey Lee.

The program was divided into two parts: (1) a focus on two-party complex mediations with potential court filings, and (2) a focus on multiparty, multi-issue public dispute mediation.  

During the first two days, the faculty addressed the main features of two-party complex mediations, such as ethics, breaking impasses, the use of caucuses versus joint sessions, implicit bias, and the art of co-mediation. Many of the concepts are laid out in “Mediation: A Practice Guide for Mediators, Lawyers, and Other Professionals,” by David A. Hoffman and other contributors (Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, 2013).

The mediation strategy and process design espoused by this faculty is structured on Roger Fisher’s interest-based model, as outlined in the classic “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In,” by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton (Penguin Books 2011 (originally published in 1981)). The basic principles call for separating people from the problem and shifting from interests from positions. 

Their theory is also heavily influenced by the framework of the core concerns explored in “Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate,” by Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro (Penguin Books 2005). Core concerns–or emotional interests–are human wants that underlie every negotiation. They include autonomy, appreciation, affiliation, status, and role.

Faculty member Audrey Lee explained that exploring disputants’ core concerns allows mediators to shift the focus to disputants’ real interests and to promote better understanding, thus facilitating agreement.

During the first two days, the workshop participants practiced co-mediating in two cases involving commercial contracts, intellectual property, and employment disputes.  Many participants commented that they had never co-mediated, and that they tended to be more driven by positions than interests.  Some added that they struggled to be creative in devising ways to expand the pie, noting that they had to turn off their combative litigator instincts and the urge to render advice and advocate.

The program then transitioned from two-party matters to multiparty, multi-issue public disputes. Lawrence Susskind, a leader in the development of public dispute mediation, introduced these complex public disputes, explaining that their form and substance shift.  The number of parties can range from as few as 30 to beyond 100, many of whom may be unfamiliar with professional facilitation, and with more parties potentially joining over the course of the dispute resolution process.

An additional challenge, Susskind explained, is that the parties may represent stakeholder groups without full empowerment to speak on the groups’ behalf.

Also, the agenda is likely to keep changing because very often parties continue to reshape or argue about it.

Furthermore, scientific and technical uncertainty and disagreement abound.  Examples of these amorphous dispute resolution settings are global treaty negotiations, budgetary negotiations, environmental policy disputes, and public dialogues on issues such as police conduct. A deeper exploration of these issues can be found in “Breaking Robert’s Rules: The New Way to Run Your Meeting, Build Consensus and Get Results,” by Lawrence E. Susskind and Jeffrey L. Cruikshank (Oxford University Press 2006).

Susan Podziba then elaborated on the process she uses in mediating these complex cases. She has worked with the United Nations and individual national governments to resolve intractable disputes with widespread and long-lasting ramifications. She said she begins with an assessment by reading all the publicly available information, followed by discussions with people who have lived through the conflict.

In many cases, parties have not been identified, and therefore, Podziba said she starts by talking to the parties who are obvious, and from those conversations identifying additional parties that should be participating.

Once the first phase is concluded,  Podziba develops the process design, aimed at enabling diverse groups to work together to resolve a complex conflict. The process design typically includes constructing five basic building blocks: (1) the product (the form of agreement such as joint statements or MOUs) that will result from the negotiations; (2) the complementary goals that need to be achieved before agreement can be reached; (3) outreach to and consultations with outside experts; (4) trusted information (that is, information from objective sources that can correct biases); and (5) ground rules and logistics relating to the negotiation session itself.  For more details, see “Civic Fusion: Mediating Polarized Public Disputes,” by Susan L. Podziba (ABA Publishing 2012).

The faculty prepared three complex public policy dispute mediation role-play sessions for the class. The first one concerned the reconstruction of the World Trade Center after 9/11, involving many public parties such as the New York state government, New York City, and the families of the deceased. Many participants who played the role of the families said that they felt the emotions.

After the day concluded, the faculty arranged for a guided group screening of a training video co-produced by CPR, publisher of CPR Speaks, and Harvard PON on the World Trade Center reconstruction. Details are available on Lawrence Susskind’s website, here.

The workshop participants also mediated the ethical dilemmas surrounding water shutoffs in older U.S. cities. Susskind said that his Massachusetts Institute of Technology research team–he is MIT’s Ford Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning–has mapped where U.S. local governments have shut off water supplies. 

After the role-play, many participants inquired about how to gain experience in public policy mediation. Susskind responded that public policy mediators are paid at an hourly rate and discussed the Consensus Building Institute, an international public policy mediation center Susskind founded in 1993.

On the final day of the workshop, Susan Podziba introduced the conflict over the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on sacred lands on Mauna Kea in Hawaii–a massive conflict involving foreign countries and many academic institutions.  After the simulation, many participants reflected on Podziba’s systematic process design and said that they will incorporate such a design into their mediation practice.

David Hoffman, who is credited with bringing collaborative law to the commercial sector via the firm he founded, the Boston Law Collaborative, ended by urging the attendees to consider being peacemakers:

[T]he opportunities to impact out there in the world exist in every one of those cases, when you think about the infinite dimensions of the human heart, and the opportunity we have when we enter the sacred space of people’s conflicts to heal those wounded hearts.  We have a mandate for mediation on a very deep and grand scale.

This Harvard workshop offered veteran mediators an opportunity to have experts critique their trade and to gain exposure to some of the cutting-edge theories and practices of mediation taught at Harvard Law School and its Program on Negotiation. 

***

The author, an LLM candidate at Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, in Malibu, Calif., is a 2021 CPR Summer Intern. She participated in the Harvard program detailed in this post.

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UNCITRAL Completes a New Mediation Framework, Based on the Singapore Convention

By Mylene Chan

Earlier this month, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law adopted the UNCITRAL Mediation Rules, the UNCITRAL Notes on Mediation, and the Guide to Enactment and Use of the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Mediation and International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation. 

Judith Knieper, Legal Officer at the UNCITRAL Secretariat, at a side forum on investor-state mediation, commented that these texts complete UNCITRAL’s mediation framework, with the milestone 2018 Singapore Convention on international settlement agreements as a pillar. 

Starting in 1980, UNCITRAL began to develop a mediation framework, which now includes the following:

  • UNCITRAL Conciliation Rules (1980) (updated in 2021).
  • UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Conciliation (2002) (amended in 2018).
  • UNCITRAL Guide to Enactment and Use of the 2002 Model Law (2002) (replaced in 2021).
  • UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Mediation and International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (2018) (amending the 2002 Model Law). See page 2 of UNCITRAL Working Document 1073 here.
  • The United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (2018), commonly known as the “Singapore Convention.”
  • UNCITRAL Mediation Rules (2021) (updating the 1980 Conciliation Rules)
  • UNCITRAL Notes on Mediation (2021).
  • Guide to Enactment and Use of the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Mediation and International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (2021) (replacing the 2002 Guide) (available in the Working Document linked above). 

These texts provide a means for the harmonization of laws, procedural rules, and enforcement mechanisms for international mediation. The most significant tool for international commercial dispute resolution is the Singapore Convention, which enables enforcement of mediated settlement agreements among its signatories.

As a result of the adoption of the Singapore Convention, international businesses now have an effective alternative to litigation and arbitration in resolving cross-border disputes.  Judith Knieper said that 54 states had signed the Singapore Convention, and she said she hoped that more will join as many states are currently engaged in the ratification process.

The UNCITRAL Secretariat has invited CPR to participate as an observer delegation to its Working Group II deliberations, and solicited its comments on the drafts to facilitate finalizing the texts. The UNCITRAL Working Group II is composed of UNCITRAL’s 60-member states and has been developing work focused on mediation, arbitration, and dispute settlement. 

During UNCITRAL’s recent 54th session, which ran from June 28 and concluded July 16, and was held in person in Vienna, Working Group II introduced a number of updated provisions aimed at taking into account recent mediation trends and developments, including court-ordered mediation. See page 2 UNCITRAL Working Document 1074 here. UNCITRAL incorporated Working Group II’s revisions as part of the newly adopted UNCITRAL Mediation Rules.

Major updates in the UNCITRAL Mediation Rules include the following:

  • Clarify that the rules apply to mediation regardless of the process’s origin, including an agreement between the parties, an investment treaty, a court order, or a mandatory statutory provision.
  • Introduce a definition of mediation.
  • Stipulate that in a case of conflict, mandatory provisions in the applicable international instrument, court order, or law will prevail.
  • Specify that mediation commences when the disputants agree to engage in the mediation.
  • Require disclosure of circumstances regarding impartiality or independence.
  • Permit use of alternative means of communication during the mediation and of remote consultations.
  • Provide that information shared by parties with the mediator is confidential unless parties express otherwise.
  • Update the provisions governing the preparation of settlement agreements to take into account UNCITRAL’s legal framework, including the recently adopted Singapore Convention.  
  • Address the interaction between mediation and other proceedings.
  • Provide for exclusion of liability for mediators.
  • Encourage gender and geographical diversity in selection of mediators.
  • Specify that parties and the mediator should agree upfront on the methods of assessing mediation costs, with multiparty mediations shared on a pro rata basis.

UNCITRAL is expected to publish the UNCITRAL Mediation Rules and the UNCITRAL Notes on Mediation together later this year, according to a statement at the end of the session.

UNCITRAL’s work on mediation will continue with the drafting of rules and guidelines relating to investor-state mediation and with work exploring educational best practices, according to an official’s comments in a side forum, which is a lunch-hour roundtable in which UNCITRAL officials discussed topics related to UNCITRAL’s work.

Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law Prof. Lela Love, who is chair of the International Advisory Board on Mediation for the Office of Ombudsman for the United Nations Funds and Programmes, commented about the developments reported here:

All this remarkable focus on mediation—and activity around it—heralds a new era for the dispute resolution process that ideally promotes enhanced understanding, dialogue and creative problem solving.  This may be a renaissance time for mediation—one that is very welcome in the divided and polarized time we inhabit.

* * *

The author, an LLM candidate at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, has covered UNCITRAL’s 54th Session proceedings as a 2021 CPR Summer Intern.

UN Insolvency Work Finds Help with Mediation

By Mylene Chan

The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law adopted a simplified insolvency regime that recommends mediation to resolve disputes between financial sector creditors and small debtors during its 54th Session. 

The move sets out a path where mediation can be a help to debt-plagued businesses in developing and emerging countries.

Last Friday, UNCITRAL closed its 54th Session in Vienna, which began June 28. During this session, Working Group V on insolvency law finalized legislative recommendations for a simplified insolvency regime for micro and small enterprises, or MSEs, and UNCITRAL adopted it. 

UNCITRAL mandated this project in 2013 because the insolvency rules generally applicable to mid-sized and large business enterprises do not accommodate micro and small businesses, which are the driving economic force for many countries. Gregor Baer, 14:2 Insolvency and Restructuring Int’l 64 (Sept. 2020) (available at https://bit.ly/3B1peox).

As part of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, UNCITRAL has also asked its  Working Group I, on micro, small and medium enterprises, to make recommendations to reduce legal obstacles faced by micro and small businesses in developing countries. Id.

The drafting of the simplified insolvency regime has been coordinated with the World Bank Group because the Financial Stability Board designated both the World Bank and UNCITRAL as standard setters in the field of insolvency. Financial Stability Board, Insolvency and Creditor Rights Standard (Jan. 20, 2011) (available at https://bit.ly/36EKqTi).

In light of the significant negative impact of Covid-19 on MSEs, several member states of Working Group V have expressed an urge to expedite the drafting of the simplified insolvency regime. UNCITRAL, Capital Markets Intelligence, “International Insolvency & Restructuring Report 2020/21” (available at https://bit.ly/2VBeg8P).

Ironically, because many member states have implemented insolvency-related legislative measures to address difficulties faced by MSEs during the health emergency, the pandemic has created valuable experiences that could help improve the text of the simplified insolvency regime.

The simplified insolvency regime addresses major characteristics of small debtors, such as having a non-diversified creditor, supply, and client base. See Note by the Secretariat,  “Insolvency of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises: Draft text on a simplified insolvency regime” (Sept. 28, 2018) (available at https://bit.ly/3ie53Ll).  

Other distinguishing features of small debtors covered by the simplified insolvency regime include the access to credit being subject to the grant of personal guaranties, encumbrance of physical assets, and unencumbered assets with minimal value.  In addition, the simplified insolvency regime considers small debtors’ frequent poor or nonexistent records, overlapping ownership control and management, and “concerns over stigmatisation.” See UNCITRAL, Capital Markets Intelligence, International Insolvency & Restructuring Report at 10, linked above.

The simplified insolvency regime focuses on mechanisms to bring micro and small business debtors into a formal insolvency system that provides rehabilitation and a reasonable payment plan.  Through reduced complexity of insolvency procedures, lowered costs, and more favorable conditions for a prompt discharge, small debtors could hope to have a fresh start.  See Note by the Secretariat at page 7, linked above.

Member states have proposed endorsing out-of-court and hybrid procedures to develop workable alternatives to formal insolvency processes amicable to MSEs. Report of Working Group V (Insolvency Law) on the work of its 54th session (Vienna, 10–14 Dec. 2018) p. 22 (Dec. 20, 2018) (available at https://bit.ly/3z29MGR).  

During previous drafting stages, some member states explained that certain preconditions should exist for out-of-court and hybrid procedures to be effective, such as incentives for financial institutions to negotiate debt restructuring and to suspend the debt.  Those procedures, however, were generally more suitable for large and medium-sized enterprises.

Other member states explained that in some jurisdictions, positive tax impacts of debt forgiveness are available as incentives for financial sector creditors to negotiate debt restructuring with small debtors. In other jurisdictions, administrative out-of-court procedures and mediation have yielded positive results.

In previous negotiation stages, some national delegations and development-focused non-governmental organizations suggested non-punitive rehabilitation of small debtors to promptly restore their economic productivity. See Baer, linked above.

* * *

In this month’s session, Working Group V adopted the following commentaries in the simplified insolvency regime to provide guidance that mediation could be helpful in resolving disputes relating to MSEs:  

To avoid delays and at the same time to ensure transparency and predictability, this [text] recommends that a simplified insolvency regime should provide for the default procedures and treatment that can be overridden by the decision of the competent authority on its own motion or upon request of any party in interest. The competent authority may modify the proceedings by introducing, for example, a mandatory mediation stage or displacing the debtor- in-possession with an independent professional.

Note by the Secretariat, “Draft text on a simplified insolvency regime” 38, ¶ 75. (Feb. 16, 2021)  (available at https://bit.ly/3id8IJw).

Mediation and conciliation services may also be helpful for resolution of disputes between MSE debtors and creditors and among creditors.

Note by the Secretariat, “Draft text on a simplified insolvency regime Addendum” 38, ¶ 75. (Feb. 16, 2021)  (available at https://bit.ly/3raOQKU).

* * *

The simplified insolvency regime is expected to appear as Part V of UNCITRAL’s Legislative Guide on Insolvency Law.

Developing and emerging countries, where MSEs may drive the economies, are among those hit hardest by the economic contraction spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic. Small debtors’ insolvency affects job preservation and the supply chain.

On July 16, the final day of the 54th session, Caroline Nicholas, Senior Legal Officer of UNCITRAL, commented on technical assistance activities focusing on MSEs recovery from the effects of the pandemic:  

What is really interesting to hear is the experience in three continents, in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. We have some emphasis on exactly the same points, the need for agility, the need for syndicated simplified measures and the need for speed in supporting MSEs so that they are receiving the financial and other support.

As the world is gaining control over the Covid-19 virus, mediation emerges as a potential solution to help ease the recovering path for struggling segments by bringing creditors to negotiate with small debtors. 

With the help of mediation and incentivized policies for creditors to suspend or forgive debts, perhaps many MSEs can recover their economic productivity and help developing and emerging countries restore economic and social welfare after the pandemic. 

* * *

The author, an LLM candidate at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, has covered UNCITRAL’s 54th Session proceedings as a 2021 CPR Summer Intern.

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Biden Signs Resolution Restoring Pre-Trump EEOC Conciliation Rules

By Cai Phillips-Jones

On June 30, President Biden signed S.J. Res. 13, overturning a recent U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rule change that briefly required the EEOC to share more information with employers during the EEOC conciliation process.

CPR Speaks previously discussed the rule reversion, which Congress passed along party lines, and which will bring back the previous higher level of discretion on information to be provided by defendant companies.

Conciliation is a mediation-like process which happens after evidence of discrimination is found by the EEOC. Proponents and opponents of the short-lived rule both argued that their rule preferences would increase efficient settlement of EEOC cases.

The standard emanates from Mach Mining v. EEOC, 575 U.S. 480 (2015) (available at https://bit.ly/2TmuMZg), in which the U.S. Supreme Court granted broad discretion to the EEOC to determine how to proceed with the conciliation process, including the amount of information shared with the parties.

But the Trump-era rule, which went into effect in February, tamped down on this discretion, requiring the EEOC to share factual findings of discrimination such as the identity of witnesses to the discrimination.

Biden’s remarks upon signing can be found here.

* * *

The author, a J.D. student who will enter his third year this fall at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, is a 2021 CPR Summer Intern.

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‘Oncoming Tsunami’: With CDC Eviction Moratorium Ending July 31, Will ADR Programs Come to the Rescue of Tenants, Landlords, and Courts?

By Mylene Chan

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a number of negative economic effects, and one of the most significant is the exposure of renters across the United States to increased eviction risks.

And mediation, in turn, has been a significant response.

According to Princeton University’s eviction tracking system–monitoring five states and 29 cities in the United States–landlords have filed about 386,000 evictions during the pandemic, including an estimated 6,250 filed last week.

In response, governments at the federal, state, and local levels have developed short-term eviction moratoriums and similar measures to help renters keep their homes. But in the long run, eviction proceedings are likely to rise.

Federal, state, and local governments have adopted a variety of temporary emergency measures aimed at helping renters. For example, in September 2020, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Centers for Disease Control issued a nationwide moratorium on evictions. See the Federal Register announcement, since extended, here.  

This moratorium was challenged by real estate groups, but a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week allowed it to remain in effect through the end of the month. Alabama Association of Realtors, et al. v. Department of Health and Human Services, et al., No. 20A169 (June 29); see also analysis at Amy Howe, “Divided court leaves eviction ban in place,” Scotusblog (June 29) (available at https://bit.ly/3xhd74c).  

In addition, Congress allocated $46 billion in rental assistance to struggling renters through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and the December 2020 Covid-19 relief package; much of the relief funding, however, has yet to reach struggling renters. See, e.g., “Emergency Rental Assistance through the Coronavirus Relief Fund,” Congressional Research Service (June 8) (available at https://bit.ly/3Ak9vjX).  See also Kristian Hernández, “As CDC’s Eviction Moratorium Ends, States Prepare for Flood of Cases,” Pew Stateline (June 22) (available at https://bit.ly/3AqTHw2).

Several states and cities–such as Maryland, New York, Vermont, Hawaii, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.–have adopted eviction bans or limitations. These moratoriums have sharply reduced eviction filings during the extent of the pandemic. 

But eviction restrictions will not remain in place indefinitely. After being extended several times, the federal moratorium is scheduled to expire on July 31. (See the CDC press release on the extension at https://bit.ly/3684qNN.) State and local eviction protections are also expected to end at some point this year. As a result, states and cities are preparing for a potential wave of eviction actions in their housing courts once moratoriums lift.

Some states and local governments have attempted to modify eviction procedures to make the process less burdensome on renters. For example, Maine passed a bill instructing landlords to explain the eviction process, options for legal assistance and rent relief, and eviction notices. Nevada and Illinois each adopted a law requiring courts to seal records of evictions relating to defaults during the pandemic.

One possible solution that could help both the courts and renters adapt to the expected rise in evictions is alternative dispute resolution. These programs aren’t new.  But recently, interest has been heightened due to the pandemic, and many U.S. jurisdictions have turned to ADR eviction programs to encourage tenants and landlords to negotiate.

According to the Urban Institute, as of April, there were 38 ADR eviction diversion and prevention programs nationwide. Mark Treskon, Solomon Greene, Olivia Fiol & Anne Junod, “Eviction Prevention and Diversion Programs,” Urban Institute Housing Research Crisis Collaborative (April 2021) (available at https://urbn.is/3qI9C4j).

The states with programs include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington. See https://bit.ly/3xdHMPP, collected by Chicago’s Resolutions Systems Institute.

ADR eviction programs have been successful in several jurisdictions over the past few years. One example is a St. Paul, Minn., housing clinic. Colleen Ebinger & Elizabeth Clysdale, “Justice Served, Housing Preserved: The Ramsey County Housing Court Model,” 41:3 Mitchell Hamline L.J. of Pub. Policy & Practice: Article 10 (2020) (available at https://bit.ly/2V1DaON).

In July 2018, the Ramsey County court—covering part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area–launched a housing clinic with the target of reducing eviction by 50%  in five years. Eighteen months after implementation, eviction judgments declined, settlements rose, the court trial calendar lightened and expungements doubled.

Another successful eviction mediation program was developed by the Washington University School of Law Civil Rights & Mediation Clinic and the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council in St. Louis in 2012. Karen Tokarz, Samuel Hoff Stragand, Michael Geigerman & Wolf Smith, “Addressing the Eviction Crisis and Housing Instability Through Mediation,” 63 Washington U. J. of Law & Policy 243 (available at https://bit.ly/3694AEG).  

In the St. Louis Mediation Project, professional mediators and students provide free mediation services for landlord-tenant cases. In 2018, 71% of pro se landlord-tenant cases mediated by the project resulted in a settlement. More than half of these agreements resulted in a dismissal of eviction proceedings.

There is some evidence that even many landlords support ADR in the eviction context. Last month, the American Bar Association and the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program published a report identifying nationwide best practices to divert eviction filings and enhance housing stability. See “Designing for Housing Stability: Best Practices for Court-Based and Court-Adjacent Eviction Prevention and/or Diversion Programs” (available at https://bit.ly/3yn3FN7).

This research revealed that stakeholders generally supported eviction prevention efforts during the pandemic. More than 70% of the landlords surveyed were willing to discuss tenant non-payment outside of court. 

Report author Deanna Parrish, Clinical Instructor and Lecturer at Harvard Law School’s Dispute Systems Design Clinic, wrote in an e-mail:

Effective eviction prevention and/or diversion programs use a multi-sector and holistic approach to provide parties with a combination of legal representation, quality mediation, cash or rental assistance, and self-help or supportive services. Investing in eviction prevention and/or diversion programs is not just urgent, it is doable. These programs enjoy wide support across landlords, court staff, and tenants. Over 81% of property owners surveyed reported being less likely to pursue eviction if their tenant had access to rental or cash assistance.Court staff and judicial stakeholders reported eviction diversion programs as essential to helping lighten what they described as an “oncoming tsunami” of eviction filings once the CDC moratorium lifts. Tenant advocates have long been calling for legal representation and easily accessible rental and cash assistance, among other interventions, to help increase housing stability. Legislatures and courts should act swiftly to formalize eviction prevention. Doing so would be nothing short of a lifeline for millions of Americans, landlords and tenants alike.

As the Covid-19 pandemic winds down and emergency measures are lifted, alternative dispute resolution eviction programs may soften the blow to tenants as eviction moratoriums end. Although these ADR programs are in the early stages of adoption, there are promising signs that they might help the U.S. economy’s housing segment return to normalcy without significant housing disruptions.

* * *

The author, an LLM candidate, at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, is a 2021 CPR Summer Intern.

[END]

Highlights from the June Session of the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation ‘Mediating Disputes’ Training

By Mylene Chan

The Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation conducted a June 7-11 program called Mediating Disputes. This is a recurring course that the program has offered to executives for many years.

About 50 professionals from around the world, including judges, lawyers, business executives, and nonprofit managers attended the sessions taught by Robert Mnookin, Samuel Williston Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, Gary Friedman, of Mill Valley, Calif.’s Mediation Law Offices, and Sausalito, Calif., mediator Dana Curtis.

Mediating Disputes provides training in the non-caucus “Mediation through Understanding” model of mediation that Mnookin, Friedman, and, along with Friedman, co-founder of the Center for Understanding in Conflict, Jack Himmelstein, of New Rochelle, N.Y., have developed and promoted as teachers and practitioners for more than 20 years at the Center of Mediation in Law and the Harvard Negotiation Research Project.

The Understanding Model is a transparent approach in which conflicts are resolved through deepened understanding. This approach eschews the risks of coercion and manipulation potentially present in some other mediation models. 

A distinguishing feature is that all parties work together in a mediation with everyone present. There are no separate meetings and no shuttle diplomacy where the mediator alone has information from both sides. This arrangement eliminates the opportunity for mediators to manipulate information asymmetry. Apart from resolving that ethical dilemma, working together fosters more extensive mutual understanding between the disputants.

The model starts from the foundational belief that disputants should not caucus when conflicts arise and that, in fact, embracing conflicts is often the best opportunity to create value. By staying together throughout the mediation, even when emotions are high, the disputants are forced to vet their underlying interests, allowing the true issues to surface and bring about more nuanced appreciation of each party’s perspective and interest.

Another distinctive characteristic of the Understanding Model is the emphasis on placing ultimate responsibility for whether and how the conflict is resolved on the disputants, not the mediator. It is the parties, rather than the professionals, who ultimately have the best knowledge of what underlies their disputes. Although the intensity of the conflict can obscure their views, the parties hold the key to reaching a resolution of their dispute that best serves them.  When the parties take the lead in resolving the conflict, coercion and manipulation can be eliminated from a mediation, according to the course. 

Mnookin, Friedman, and Curtis presented together during the five-day course. The faculty members engaged the participants in two full mediation stimulations–a personal dispute and a complex business dispute–using the Understanding Model. Each day was dedicated to one of the model’s phases, including contracting, defining the problem and dealing with conflict, understanding law and interests, generating options, and exploring interests and packages.

The faculty demonstrated how each phase should be conducted.  They sent the participants to breakout rooms to roleplay, with guidance and critique, followed by debriefing.  After the day concluded, the three faculty members held office hours for follow-up questions.

The attendees participated in about four hours of simulated mediations using the Understanding Model so they could understand its impact and effect cognitively and viscerally.  

On the final day, the faculty showed a mediation training video produced by the International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution, the host of CPR Speaks, illustrating the caucus model to compare and contrast the different styles. See “Resolution Through Mediation: Solving a Complex International Business Problem” (updated version on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTbj-eHwX-w and available from CPR at https://bit.ly/3cFEkW5).

* * *

Reflecting on the processes reviewed in the Program on Negotiation training sessions, Prof. Robert Mnookin noted, “Many lawyer-mediators primarily rely on separate meetings or caucusing for understandable reasons:

(1) it is more comfortable for them because it avoids their having to deal with heated conflict between the parties;

(2) they believe they will be told things in secret that will allow them to create alternatives that facilitate resolution. Besides, many lawyers (who typically select the mediator) prefer it because it gives them more client control.”

“But in my view,” Mnookin continued, “there is far too much reliance on caucusing. The Understanding Model puts the focus on the parties themselves and provides a much greater opportunity for them to take responsibility for helping shape a resolution that may provide a foundation for repairing a damaged relationship.”

Faculty member and Understanding Model developer Gary Friedman noted in an email,  “The model is premised on the idea that the power of understanding is an underutilized power as opposed to the power of coercion, and has the ability to help people find agreements that are more responsive to what’s personally important to them. Understanding in the form of agreements about how the mediation proceeds as well as the ultimate result give the parties control not just over the outcome, but provides them with participation in designing the process as well.”

Faculty member Dana Curtis, like Robert Mnookin, also had misgivings about relying on caucuses in mediation. She stated, “Unfortunately, the caucus model has eclipsed the Understanding Model, especially in recent years. I believe this has occurred for two reasons. Lawyers prize their role as legal adversaries and protectors at the expense of their role as collaborators and problem-solvers. And mediators, especially retired judges and lawyers brought up on settlement conferences, have not acquired the skills and understandings to enable them to offer parties and lawyers an alternative that can lead to a satisfying and meaningful process and, hopefully, resolution, rather than simply a ‘deal.’”

Concluded Curtis: “We would like to change that!”

Details of the Understanding Model can be found at the links above, and in Beyond Winning: Negotiating to Create Value in Deals and Disputes by Robert H. Mnookin, with Scott R. Peppet and Andrew S. Tulumello (Harvard University/Belknap Press 2004).  A mediation training video illustrating the Understanding Model titled Saving the Last Dance: Mediation Through Understanding, with Robert Mnookin and Jack Himmelstein as narrators and Gary Friedman as mediator, is available at the Harvard Program on Negotiation website at https://bit.ly/35hbdEE.  

And for more on recent views of mediation joint sessions and caucusing, see “Decline of Dialogue? Galton, Love & Weiss on Joint Sessions, Caucuses, and the State of Mediation,” CPR Speaks (June 2) (available at https://bit.ly/3daRBGe).

* * *

The author, an LLM candidate, at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, is a 2021 CPR Summer Intern.

[END]

CEDR’s Eileen Carroll: Her Mediation Story

By Antranik Chekemian

F. Peter Phillips, director of New York Law School’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Skills Program, welcomed an online audience earlier this month as part of the program’s long-running lunchtime speaker series for a session with veteran U.K. mediator Eileen Carroll.

Carroll is founder of London-based Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution, better known as CEDR, “by far the most influential and prescient dispute resolution organization not only in the U.K., but really . . .  in Europe,” said Phillips in the introduction to the Feb. 10 session, which had about 40 attendees.

Phillips invited Carroll to share her professional background and how her journey into the ADR world started.  Carroll opened describing, among other things, a long history with the publisher of this CPR Speaks blog, the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution, and recounted some of those interactions over these years.  [Phillips is a former CPR senior vice president.]

She said she was a senior litigation partner at a London law firm in the 1980s, with “good contacts” in the U.S., and she took a six-month secondment to San Francisco.  “I was one of the senior litigation partners and they asked me whether I would go and work with a firm on the west coast,” she said, “and I took myself off to San Francisco.”

She said that she decided her focus would be alternative dispute resolution. “I learned a bit about mediation from some of the research I had done, and I thought that would be my project,” she said. She noted that she was impressed by how the mediation process “extracted people from the drama of litigation.” Carroll explained:

I then was given a book called The Manager’s Guide to Resolving Legal Disputes by Henry and Lieberman.  . . . Jim Henry, based in New York, who had started . . .  CPR. He became a very dear friend, and I was going to write a book, but someone gave me his book . . . and I decided when I read that I was really fired up to do something.

James F. Henry is founder of CPR, and Jethro Lieberman is a former CPR vice president and a retired New York Law School professor.

Carroll showed the audience an article she wrote stemming from her U.S. work, “Are We Ready for ADR in Europe?” International Financial Law Review 8 Part 12, 11 (1989).

The article’s title, she said, “was a question no one had asked, and I was determined that we were going to be ready for ADR in Europe. But I knew […] that I needed to do something to get a support behind me, so I set about founding a nonprofit organization.” She added, “I did get inspiration from Jim [Henry].”

She added, “By the time we launched CEDR, I had managed to get with the help of others–80 big companies to support the idea–[and] the major law firms in London didn’t want to be left out, so they thought they better support the idea.”

Philips jumped in and mentioned that CEDR’s story was similar to the CPR Institute’s origin in the U.S. “It wasn’t as if the idea was ‘Let’s take mediation and convince people of it’ so much as it was ‘Let’s take a core of leading owners of disputes–leading corporations, people who spend a lot of money litigating–and convene them so that they become the torchbearers,” said Phillips, adding, “They became the people who are convincing their peers.”

Carroll said that the ties to North America in her work continues, citing current work with the International Academy of Mediators. [CPR and CEDR continue to collaborate on seminars and trainings. Information on the next scheduled joint training–a four-day advanced mediation skills training seminar that begins April 19, in which the organizations will be joined by the Silicon Valley Arbitration & Mediation Center, is available on CPR’s website here.]

Philips asked Carroll about the role of emotion in commercial mediation, noting “the challenge to determine the extent to which . . . the expression of emotion in a commercial context is helpful.”

Carroll said, “In every conflict, there is emotion–people are upset in some way or other. Whether it’s because they have been avoiding it, whether it’s anger, whether it’s anxiety, all of those emotions I find present, and they display themselves in different ways, because we all have different kinds of personalities.”

She stressed the importance of “creating an environment where people can tell whatever their story is.” She stated that a mediator’s job is not to patronize but to notice the parties’ emotions and feelings, and explore them at the right moment with the right questions.

Carroll further emphasized that there is not a uniform approach in mediation. “There may be several working sessions with different people,” she said, “so to deal with these emotions, you have to go at it carefully without too many assumptions and create the space to get to know the people that you’re going to work with.”

Phillips then asked Carroll about the challenges women encounter in ADR. “When you were a practicing lawyer, you were very frequently the only woman in the room,” he said, “In the early days of ADR, you were very frequently one of the very few women who was making a go of it,” he said.

She emphasized that because law firms usually advise their clients during the mediator selection process, “they often follow the same kind of pattern of three names.” She expanded:

When l look back to the beginning of the field when we first started, . . . there was just a sense that we need people with status, people with experience, so at that point people were kind of looking to, ‘Who were those senior people?’ And the legal profession, even in the early 90s, a lot of those people were men. It is changing. But . . . those who were early entrants to the field obviously got . . . a reputation. [If they] were good mediators and good arbitrators who were around in the mid-90s, some of those people still have incredibly effective practices today.

Phillips then asked Carroll about a recent CEDR report that discussed “how female mediators view their strengths as opposed to how male mediators view their strengths.” [CEDR’s current research can be found here.]

“[W]omen recognized that they were good at relationships and empathy,” said Carroll, recalling the research, “and a lot of guys obviously have that experience, but . . . a lot of the men saw themselves as more as getting the deal done, much more transactional.”

Carroll then referred attendees to a Simon Baron-Cohen’s 2012 book, “The Essential Difference: Men, Women and the Extreme Male Brain, which discusses these issues.

“Women do have some very natural abilities in relation to communication skills and they have done work with babies, boys, and girls . . . and the way they react.  . . . So, women have a lot of natural skill in the area of mediation which I think sometimes they underplay because if you look at in life, women often have the role of having to make . . . all the relationships work within a family, sometimes in an office,” said Carroll.

Emphasizing the need for diversity, she concluded, “Women absolutely have the capability to do any tough mediation, because they have got the intellectual skill, they understand the background of the problem. There is no reason why there could not be as many successful commercial women mediators as men. I think it’s something about the filter of the selection process, which I think is changing.”

“All the business people I have worked with through the years in mediation, I have never had a problem,” said Carroll.  “Over time,” she continued, “I have never . . . felt any concern in dealing with business people about the role of the woman mediator. Never. I would not say that was always the case in relation to certain members of the bar.  . . . I have always managed to walk around it. It hasn’t been a problem.”

She concluded her presentation discussing instilling “patience and persistence” into mediation to make it successful.

* * *

Eileen Carroll’s presentation is archived at the NYLS ADR Program link above and directly on YouTube here.

* * *

The author, a second-year student at New York’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, is a CPR 2021 intern.

[END]

#CPRAM21: Managing Workplace Conflicts, On-site and Remote

If you missed the 2021 CPR Annual Meeting in January—the first free public meeting held online in the organization’s 40-year history—the videos are being posted on CPR’s YouTube Channel. While additional videos will be posted for CPR members only, the first, linked here on CPR Speaks, is open access and features the keynoters, CNN Anchor and Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash and General James Mattis, who is former U.S. Defense Secretary. Click the Subscribe button at YouTube for alerts and for more CPR content. For information on full access and joining CPR, please visit CPR’s Membership webpage here.

By Antranik Chekemian

Kimberley Lunetta, who represents management in employment matters as of counsel at Morgan Lewis & Bockius, moderated a third-day CPR Annual Meeting panel on state-of-the-art best practices for addressing and resolving workplace disputes. The panel mainly concentrated on managing employees and disputes in the current remote environment, and how to set up an ADR program in order to prevent and resolve conflicts.

The Jan. 29 session included four panelists:

  • Alfred G. Feliu, who heads his own New York firm, is a longtime panelist for CPR Dispute Resolution and the American Arbitration Association’s commercial and employment arbitration and mediation panels. He is past chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Law Section and a fellow of the College of Commercial Arbitrators and the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers.
  • Wayne Outten is chair and founder of New York’s Outten & Golden LLP, which focuses on representing employees. He has represented employees for more than 40 years as a litigator. He has long advocated for using mediation in employment disputes. His practice focuses on problem solving, negotiating, and counseling on behalf of employees.
  • Cheryl M. Manley is a veteran labor employment attorney with more than 25 years of  experience, and since 2005 has been at Charter Communications, where she is senior vice president and associate general counsel of employment law, leading the broadband/cable operator’s Employment Law Group.
  • Andrew J. Weissler is a partner in the labor and employment group of Husch Blackwell. He is a member of the firm’s virtual office, the Link, based in Bloomington, Ill. Weissler advises and represents public and private clients on workplace issues involving difficult personnel decisions.

Feliu and Outten are on a subcommittee of CPR’s Employment Disputes Committee that is working on a model workplace disputes program, along with a new version of CPR’s Employment Dispute Arbitration Procedure to be issued soon.

A poll conducted at the beginning of the panel showed that remote working was new for most of the participants.

Lunetta launched the discussion by asking Feliu about the threshold questions employers should ask themselves when considering an ADR program.

If the principal goal is avoiding litigation, responded Feliu, then employers “are really focusing on processing existing or incipient claims.” As a result, he said, employers “are going to focus more on arbitration–on ending up with a process that brings an ultimate result.”

But if the employer’s goal is more on problem solving and identifying tensions before they become disputes and the employer views conflict resolution as a strategic imperative, then the alternative approach of problem-solving should be embraced, he said. Here, the focus is different than pure litigation avoidance. Said Feliu, “Litigation avoidance or reduction of legal costs will be part–will be an effect, hopefully–of the problem-solving process but wouldn’t necessarily be the goal.”

This approach would also help the organization become more competitive, he said–to work more constructively and efficiently while, as an after-effect, avoiding litigation.

Feliu explained, “How do you do this? You do this is by opening up lines of communication, by necessarily undercutting to a certain extent the chain of command. You’re empowering employees to come forward with their disputes at whatever level and whatever the nature. And by doing that, you are creating a different kind of an organization that is less hierarchical, less structured, and more fluid.”

Wayne Outten added that ADR is ideal for workplace disputes. Because there already is an important relationship between both sides and the relationship is typically continuing, said Outten, it “is a perfect place for identifying problems and solving them early on.” He then presented two approaches that companies can embrace for dispute resolution procedures, the legal mentality and the human resources mentality.

The legal mentality, said Outten, is, “Let’s find a way to avoid lawsuits and to maximize the chances that we will win them with the least possible costs.” He said the HR approach is better, with goals of making employees happy and providing an environment where workers can be productive and focus on their jobs in an effective and efficient manner.

With the HR approach, Outten said, a program should start identifying problems at the earliest possible stage. “If a problem ripens into a dispute,” he said, the goal is “resolving the dispute in the simplest, quickest way possible and escalating only as and when you need to.” The HR approach also serves the lawyers’ perspective as it “tends to avoid disputes ripening into the possibility of litigation.”

Lunetta then asked the panelists whether having employees working from home in a number of states, possibly new states to the company, would affect the design of an ADR program.

Al Feliu responded that working from home would not alter or change the program itself, but it increases and amplifies “the need for it to be enforceable across 50 states and 50 jurisdictions.”

Wayne Outten discussed some of the positive and negative changes regarding the nature of workplace disputes that come with remote working. On one hand, the kind of disputes that arise from being in the same place, and having interpersonal reactions, presumably will be reduced with the increase in virtual offices, such as sexual harassment claims and bullying.

“On the other hand,” he said, “the opportunities for disputes are exacerbated because you don’t have as much free-flowing communication, and the ability to address things face to face.” Outten added, “Disputes may fester.”

From the management-side perspective, Husch Blackwell’s A.J. Weissler noted that the HR model Outten mentioned “has changed quite a bit in this remote work environment.” If the employees are typically working remotely, then having difficult conversations over the Internet should be acceptable, he said.  

But if a human resources or corporate employee is working from home while the business has essential workers who have been going to the employer’s worksite, then, says Weissler, “there’s a real disconnect there” that can make the on-site workers feel and sense that the employer is not in touch with the employee.

Moderator Kimberley Lunetta then asked panelists whether CPR has resources that can help employers think through these issues if they are considering any of the dispute resolution options that were discussed.

Outten said that this was the reason for CPR to be founded decades ago, with the goal of helping companies figure out how to avoid and resolve disputes.

Outten announced that CPR and its Employment Disputes Committee will be publishing a new set of rules for administered employment dispute resolution.  Accompanying the rules will include “draft programs that companies can adopt and adapt for their own use, which have within them the various different stages that employers can consider […] including things . . . [like] informal dispute resolution and problem solving, . . . open-door policies that invite people to take their problems up the chain of command,” ombudspersons, peer review processes and “all the way up to mediation which . . . is perfectly suited for employment disputes of all kinds.”

The conversation then revolved around the pluses and minuses for an employer of establishing a mandatory arbitration program.

“In reaching the decision that our arbitration program was going to be mandatory,” responded Charter Communications’ Cheryl Manley, “one of the factors that went into play was either reducing the litigation costs, or perhaps not having to deal with court litigation.” She mentioned that her company’s program was built to resolve issues in a timely manner and on an individualized basis.

She further added that her organization has many steps before getting to the arbitration phase to resolve the employment issue. And “when it finally does get to arbitration, we believe that there’s some certainty,” said Manley, “We believe that both parties have some skin in the game, in terms of selecting the arbitrator and primarily, it’s cost effective and efficient.”

Outten then answered a question about CPR’s employment ADR program and how it can help employers not only set up, but also ensure long-term success.

Outten reiterated the program’s strength in early-stage problem solving and early dispute resolution, and added that the program offers room for flexibility and adaptability in different workplaces.

Mediation with a third-party facilitator, he said, “can be extremely valuable and beneficial. It gives the parties an opportunity to air their grievances.” When it comes to arbitration, he said, every successful workplace ADR program really needs to comply “at a minimum,” with due process protocols.”

He then presented several key features of the due process protections (which CPR has adopted here), which include:

  • “The employee isn’t required to pay more than they would pay if they were going to file in court.”
  • “The arbitrator has the authority and power to provide any remedy that a court can provide so that there’s no takeaway of remedies for the affected employee.”
  • “The employee has a fair opportunity to pick the decision maker–the arbitrator–especially given the binding power of the decision of this person to resolve the dispute.”
  • “The employee has to have a full and fair opportunity to gather information in order to present the case and . . . [any] defenses.”
  • “The employee needs to have an opportunity to have counsel of his or her choosing.”
  • “The hearing itself should be reasonably convenient . . .  so the employee doesn’t have to go a long distance to have his or her day in court.”
  • Finally, “the arbitration should end with a reasoned decision, so the parties know what the arbitrator took into account, what the findings were on the evidence, and what the legal conclusions were in determining” the decision.

A.J. Weissler added that “there are great legal reasons” not to “cram down” arbitration in a workplace disputes program, citing fairness. He said that arbitrator selection is an important factor in presenting a fair process, with a say for the employees.

Al Feliu noted that there is a dearth of diverse panelists, but major providers have made strides and continue to work on the problem to enhance and ensure fairness.

Cheryl Manley agreed with the comments, and emphasized that panelists need to reflect the workplace population.

Manley discussed Charter Communication’s Solution Channel, which she described as a 2017 program to compel arbitration use—a mandatory program for newly signed-on employees, with about 10% of the company’s 90,000 employees opting out when it was launched.  She reported that the complaints are restricted to legal claims—non-legal disputes are addressed in other ways–that are submitted through a third-party vendor which create a record over the claim. She said the American Arbitration Association is the provider.  The company absorbs the AAA filing fees and the arbitrator costs. If either side is unsatisfied with the panel, they return to the AAA for more choices.

Weissler says arbitration should be part of any dispute resolution system but if it’s made mandatory and employees are forced to use it, he said, it is counterproductive and it creates problems going forward due to the “asymmetrical” views.

Weissler said he encourages mediation as a best option. He said he is skeptical of programs that outline steps that do not allow a course of mediation to be developed.

Feliu says he has been mediating for 30 years and familiarity has grown during his period of practice after skepticism.  He agreed with Weissler’s points, but noted that mandatory mediation in New York federal court, where he said he would have expected resistance—mandatory is counterintuitive, said Feliu—it has been just as successful as voluntary mediation over about the past 10 years.

Feliu said sometimes there is grumbling but mostly, when parties get to the bargaining table, they try to settle. And he said that while joint sessions are fading, flexibility is needed.  “Every mediation is different,” he said.

Wayne Outten said that he shared Al Feliu’s experience.  In the mid-1980s, he said, the plaintiffs’ bar “viewed this newfangled process as a conspiracy to take away their rights, and I soon discovered that was not necessarily the case and became a big advocate.”

Over the past 35 years, said Outten, mediation “has become quite normal.” He echoed Feliu again,  noting that when parties attempt mediation in good faith, it is successful.

Even in situations with a lot of open issues, he said, mediation “has a very high success rate, . . .  and is always worth trying.”

Cheryl Manley said that pre-pandemic, her company didn’t want anything done virtually or remotely—all depositions, mediations and arbitration hearings were done in person, exclusively.  The change was swift, she said. “Fast forward seven, eight, nine months, . . . when we finally emerge from this pandemic, we aren’t going to go back to all depositions in person, all mediations in person or hearings,” said Manley, adding, “In fact, I think that there is no reason . . . to start putting people back on planes traveling all over the country.  It is expensive. It’s time consuming.  And it is not efficient. “ She said that the “only issues” are “the occasional technological” problems.

A.J. Weissler said he has participated in virtual matters frequently during the pandemic, and found “an incredible benefit.” Having the people resources ready on video, whether from home or for those back in their offices, has “been an incredible thing,” he said, adding that he strongly supports virtual mediations.

Wayne Outten said he always has had a concern whether real decision makers would be in the mediation room.  “Now with virtual mediations,” he said, “that problem can be more readily addressed.”

Al Feliu said he has only done virtual mediations since his first in March.  “All of the impediments, and all of the arguments against them, have been rebuffed, “ he said. For example, he explained, he can evaluate credibility better on close-up video than across a bargaining table.

Feliu conceded that there is a different feel in an in-person gathering where people have committed to the process.  That intensity, he said, isn’t present where people are sitting on their couches, are more relaxed, with their dogs nearby.  “It’s just a different process,” he said.  “I don’t have the shrieking episodes. I don’t have a lot of emotions.  Is it good or bad? It’s just different.”

The result, he said, has been that he isn’t settling cases on the first day as much as he did at in-person mediations.

Addressing audience questions, Al Feliu said he discusses confidentiality with the parties with heightened concerns, noting that a potentially serious issue could be where extra people are present, and not visible on screen, as well as individuals texting on the side. “These are all serious concerns we need to get equilibrium on” going into the mediation, he said.

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The author, a second-year student at New York’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, is a CPR 2021 intern. Alternatives editor Russ Bleemer contributed writing and research to this report.

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