In 1998, the Vermont Human Rights Commission instituted a Mediation Program to provide professional mediators at no cost to parties to assist them in resolving their cases in a mutually acceptable manner. If the Commission's staff determines that a case is appropriate for mediation, it sends the parties information about mediation with an invitation to participate in the mediation program. Mediation is entirely voluntary; it will not take place unless both parties agree to it. If the parties elect to participate in mediation, they meet with a mediator who attempts to help them work out a mutually satisfactory resolution of the case. If the mediation produces a settlement which the Commission accepts, the Commission will close the case and take no further action except to assist in enforcing the terms of the settlement, if that becomes necessary. If the case is not settled through mediation, the Commission's staff will pursue the investigation of the case to completion and the Commission will issue a final determination.
The Mediation Program fulfills a number of Commission goals:
Mediation is an effective method for achieving equitable results through a collaborative, rather than an adversarial, approach to resolving disputes. Studies have shown that there is greater satisfaction with dispute resolutions arrived at through the approach used in mediation than through resolutions imposed in litigation. In addition, mediation is more timely and less expensive than investigations and litigation.
Discrimination charges are often only one facet of parties' disputes. Mediation allows parties to be creative in crafting a resolution of the full range of issues dividing them.
Commission staff has always attempted to facilitate settlements and continues to do so. However, because of the Commission's fact-finding and enforcement functions, some parties are reluctant to discuss their positions with the staff with a frankness that is conducive to settlement. Since what goes on in mediation is confidential, parties' discussions are less inhibited. In addition, although attempting to facilitate settlements is an important role of Commission staff, unlike professional mediators, the staff cannot devote their exclusive attention to conciliation.
Mediation allows the Commission to focus its limited resources on: cases which cannot be settled; cases which raise broad policy issues; cases which affect a large number individuals; and, cases in which the respondent has previously violated the law.
For more information, please view our Mediation brochure!