The Employee Workplace Mediation Program is a service offering that provides an option to full and/or part-time permanent State of Ohio employees who are experiencing interpersonal conflict in the workplace. Through a voluntary process, employees in conflict can decide on their own outcome for resolving issues. Through mediation services, you are provided a fast, fair and informal alternative to address workplace conflicts or disputes.
The basis of the program is to:
- Provide a resource for state employees to learn and practice effective ways of managing and addressing conflict in the workplace;
- Offer a process that creates open dialogue that removes communication barriers, resulting in improved relationships and workplace morale; and
- Encourage positive and open communication by trusting, respecting, valuing each other.
The Employee Workplace Mediation Program is created to provide a safe, voluntary conflict resolution process where all parties have an opportunity to be heard and are given a choice in deciding outcomes.
The Employee Workplace Mediation Program uses Transformative Mediation, which is an effective approach to addressing workplace conflict through conversation. State of Ohio employees who are trained in Transformative Mediation will serve as State of Ohio mediators (generally two co-mediators). Trained mediator(s) will mediate a constructive conversation that allows each party to fully communicate their perspective on a particular workplace conflict. Transformative Mediation is an approach designed to support the parties’ decision-making and allow parties to have control of the process, not the mediator(s). The parties determine all outcomes including whether to resolve a conflict.
HOW MEDIATION WORKS
The program is available to all full and/or part-time permanent State of Ohio employees. This includes: bargaining unit, exempt or management employees.
Participation in the program is voluntary, which means all parties involved in a conflict and/or a dispute must agree to participate in the program. Parties are not required or forced to participate in the program.
Parties who participate in the program are not obligated to continue their participation. Prior to signing a settlement agreement, a party may withdraw from the program, at any time, by notifying one of the assigned mediators or OEAP.
Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party works with individuals in conflict to help them change their conflict interaction from negative to positive, as they explore possibilities for addressing their situation.
There is no cost to an employee for participating in mediation. This is a service offered by the Ohio Employee Assistance Program (OEAP).
Mediations are held in a private space such as an office or conference room at or near the employee’s work location. Exceptions may arise due to space consideration, in such instance, an alternate location may be used (e.g., a nearby public library). Mediation sessions are held during normal business hours and will take place during the parties’ normal work schedule. The parties must request work release time from their immediate supervisor to participate in a mediation session.
Conducting the Mediation
Mediators trained in the Transformative Mediation approach will assist parties in identifying their concerns as well as mediate a constructive conversation. The mediator(s) will not take control of the mediation session or make decisions for the parties in mediation, but will help in supporting the decisions made by the parties.
Also, parties may choose to meet with their union representative prior to the mediation in order to prepare for the session. On the day of the mediation, the mediator(s) and parties will meet at the designated location. No other participants can be present in the mediation session without the consent of both parties.
A party may request that another individual accompany him or her to mediation for support. This support person will be identified as a non-party participant (NPP). Bargaining unit employees may select a union representative as their NPP. Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, NPPs may participate in the mediation and the number of NPPs shall be limited to one (1) per party. NPPs who are State of Ohio employees must inform their supervisor of the scheduled mediation session and request work release time to attend.
Note: All NNPs are subject to the confidentiality and privilege requirements described below. Also, all NPPs must sign an Agreement to Mediate.
Ending the Mediation
The mediation session may result in one of the following outcomes:
- Settlement: the requesting party agrees to settle in exchange for an acceptable alternative. If the parties agree to the terms of a settlement, then the parties place the settlement in writing and sign the agreement. The mediator provides the signed agreement to each party for final resolution and the case is closed.
- Non-Settlement: If no resolution is reached, the mediation case is closed and OEAP is notified. The parties may continue to pursue other alternatives such as contacting OEAP for additional assistance (e.g. conflict coaching, resources, etc.).
- Withdrawal: The party understands the issues and withdraws his or her request to mediate. Both parties must sign the Withdrawal Agreement form.
The participating parties can only determine whether to settle a conflict or dispute. Prior to signing any settlement agreement, parties may withdraw from the mediation process at any time by notifying the OEAP program coordinator.
Notifying the Agency Human Resources Representative
Parties must request for work release time to participate in a mediation session by contacting their immediate supervisor or the agency Human Resources representative.
Also, the agency Human Resources representative will be notified of the outcome of the mediation (i.e., case settled, non-settlement or withdrawal). No other information will be communicated to the agency.
TYPES OF CONFLICT FOR MEDIATION
The mediation is designed to address various types of conflict. If you are experiencing workplace conflicts, disputes, or difficulties, you can request mediation services.
The following are examples of the type of issues that may arise and may involve anyone:
| Conflicts involving:
|| Issues such as:
The program is designed to address interpersonal conflicts between two or more State of Ohio employees. The program will not be used to address conflicts involving allegations of sexual contact, sexual harassment, workplace violence or workplace domestic violence.
Mediation will not be used to address conflicts involving matters that are currently being investigated internally or to address contract interpretation matters, discipline matters, or any other matters that are reserved for resolution through the grievance process or any other established procedure of an applicable collective bargaining agreement. For example, an open or active grievance will not be mediated.
BENEFITS OF MEDIATION
Mediation can offer many positive benefits when parties are willing and open to the process. Examples of the benefits of mediation include:
MAKING A MEDIATION REQUEST OR REFERRAL
Any full and/or part-time permanent State of Ohio employee, including bargaining unit, exempt or management may request mediation services by contacting the OEAP.
Also, any employee, labor relations, union or human resources representative who is not a party to a particular conflict, but has knowledge of a workplace issue, may make a referral for mediation by contacting the OEAP.
To make a request or referral, simply follow the process below:
1. Contact OEAP at 800-221-6327 or 614-644-8545.
2. Provide general information about the issue to OEAP including the names of the parties involved.
3. OEAP reviews the case to determine the appropriate action (i.e., mediation, conflict coaching or other intervention).
4. The mediator(s) will be assigned. Once the assignment is made, the lead mediator will contact the parties to confirm mediation participation.
5. If the parties agree, the assigned mediator establishes the date, time and location convenient for all parties involved.
6. The assigned mediator contacts the agency Human Resources representative to confirm the scheduled mediation.
7. The mediator(s) reports the outcome (e.g., settled, non-settlement, withdrawal) to the Human Resources representative and OEAP.
Preparing for Mediation
Here are some basic tips for parties who choose to mediate their case(s):
1. Be willing to engage in a meaningful discussion with the other party.
2. Be open to listening to the other party’s concerns and possible options for addressing those concerns.
3. Come to the mediation with options for resolution of the conflict — be creative.
4. Prior to the mediation, speak with friends and others whose advice you respect, trust about your concerns or difficulties.
5. Ask a non-participating party (NPP) to be present to support you during the mediation.
6. Gather, organize and review relevant documents that may be helpful in explaining your points in order to bring resolution to the conflict.
Remember, mediation is an informal process and the mediator(s) will not make decisions in resolving the conflict.
REQUEST FOR RELEASE TIME
The participating parties must inform their supervisor of the scheduled mediation session and request work release time to attend.
Each agency is responsible for authorizing work release time for the employee to attend a mediation, based on the employing agency’s operational needs.
Confidentiality is a critical part of the mediation process. Except as otherwise provided by law, mediation communications are confidential. However, the parties may agree otherwise in writing.
Except as otherwise required by law, mediation communications are privileged as provided in the Uniform Mediation Act, ORC 2710.01–2710.10. This privilege can be waived by the parties as provided in ORC 2710.04. Absent an exception or waiver as described above, mediators, program staff, participants, and NPPs may not testify about mediation communications.
The mediator(s) may take notes during mediation. However, all notes taken during the mediation must be destroyed at the conclusion of the session.
Unless the parties agree otherwise, neither the parties, mediators, NPPs or the OEAP personnel will not communicate any information about the mediation to the parties’ agency other than the two limited exceptions listed below. Upon an agency’s request, OEAP may release the following information: A statement indicating a mediation session was held with the parties; and the outcome of the mediation (i.e., settled, non-settlement or withdrawal).
Unless the parties otherwise agree, all parties, the mediators and any NPPs will be required to sign the Agreement to Mediate at the beginning of mediation which describes the confidential mediation process. If the parties otherwise agree, the parties are expected to keep mediation communications confidential, including the terms of an agreement. All parties must understand that any agreement may be disclosed to and/or shared with the necessary parties to implement the terms of the settlement agreement.
MEDIATOR CONFLICT AND COACHING
As mentioned above, participation in the program is voluntary for all parties involved in a conflict or dispute. When one party declines to participate or withdraws, or the parties do not agree to a settlement, OEAP may offer conflict coaching to the parties through the mediator(s).
Conflict coaching will be conducted by mediators who are trained in Transformative Mediation as well as conflict coaching. During the coaching session(s), the mediator will provide the participant with an opportunity to fully communicate their perspective and concerns regarding the conflict or dispute. The mediator will discuss different approaches to managing the conflict.
The assigned mediator is responsible for scheduling the coaching session according to the applicable procedures. Conflict coaching can be conducted via phone or in person.
ABOUT THE MEDIATORS
Mediators are selected based on established mediator criteria and the statewide competencies. These individuals are State of Ohio exempt employees who have been selected from various agencies across the State and agreed to serve as volunteer mediators.
OEAP uses a co-mediation approach for mediations, which mean that most mediation sessions are co-facilitated by two (2) mediators.
Mediator Requirements and Training
To qualify as a mediator, candidates are required to complete a mediator application, participate in the interview process, complete 20 hours of basic transformative mediation and 15 hours of skills building training.
Also, candidates must participate in at least six mediations, which include: two observations, two co-mediations and two lead mediations. Training is made available at no cost to the selected candidates.
For more information about becoming a mediator, contact the OEAP at 800-221-6327 or 614-644-8545.
ROLE OF THE MEDIATORS
The primary role of the mediators is to:
1. Assist the parties in exploring options;
2. Contact the parties to schedule the mediation;
3. Act as a facilitator (mediator) to the parties’ discussion;
4. Maintain confidentiality;
5. Identify any conflict of interest; and
6. Report the mediation outcome to OEAP.
Remember, the mediator(s) acts as a neutral third party to assist employees in addressing the conflict or dispute. Mediators have no authority to decide the outcome of a mediation session and will not act as an advocate for any party involved in a conflict or dispute. Rather, the mediator(s) will help the parties reach their own resolution by facilitating constructive conversations with the parties.
If a conflict of interest is identified, by the mediators, it is up to the parties to determine if they want to continue with the mediation session or request an alternate mediator.
GOAL OF THE MEDIATORS
The goal of the mediator(s) is to promote the parties’ mutual understanding of each other’s positions, interests and perspectives in order to resolve the dispute.
Mediator(s) maintain a dual goal focus throughout the mediation process: