Alternative Dispute Resolution Center (ADR) Center
The ADR Center only serves U.S. Department of Education employees and applicants for employment.
The ADR provides Department employees and applicants for employment with a forum to informally resolve a wide range of employment disputes, disagreements, or complaints on work-related matters. Work-related disputes can involve grievances with supervisors and/or coworkers, discrimination complaints involving Equal Employment Opportunity complaints.
The ADR Center also can serve as a resource for proactively developing and fostering a cohesive and more collegial work environment. Services offered by the ADR Center include techniques to help address, prevent and manage conflict including conflict coaching and facilitation, mediation, team building and conflict resolution training.
Frequently Asked Questions About the ADR Center Services and Process
1. What services are offered by the ADR Center and the techniques used to resolve work-related issues?
2. What are the benefits of using the ADR Center services to resolve my work-related issue?
3. What are the different types of work-place disputes, grievances, or complaints covered by the alternative dispute resolution process?
4. How do I seek assistance from the ADR Center and what is the process used to help resolve a work-related issue?
5. How do I prepare in order to get the best out of the alternative dispute resolution process?
6. What are my rights during an informal or formal session?
1. What services are offered by the ADR Center to resolve work-related issues?
The ADR Center is staffed with trained ADR Analysts who are available to provide services to employees and external applicants to informally and objectively discuss and voluntarily resolve a wide-range of employment disputes, disagreements, or complaints on work-related matters in an expeditious manner. Work-related matters can include a Pre-Administrative Grievance, Pre-Negotiated Grievance or an EEO Complaint (informal and formal). (Note: If the matter involves a personnel action or a discriminatory act, an employee must initiate contact with the Office of Finance and Operations (OFO), Office of Equal Employment Opportunity Services (OEEOS) within forty-five (45) calendar days of the date of the matter alleged to be discriminatory or, in the case of a personnel action, within forty-five (45) calendar days of the effective date of the action, or the date he or she became aware of the personnel action or discriminatory act.)
The services offered by the ADR Center include:
o Conciliation – An informal process that involves building positive relationships between parties in a dispute. A Conciliator/Neutral Third Party (ADR Analyst) may be used to help the participants develop or enhance skills for improved communication and relationships. The conciliator’s roles include assisting parties to clarify misperceptions, deal with strong emotions, and build the trust necessary for cooperative problem-solving.
o Mediation – An ADR process that uses a Neutral Third Party (ADR Analyst/Mediator or External Mediator) who has no decision-making authority. The objective of this process is to assist the parties in voluntarily reaching their own, acceptable resolution of issues in dispute. Mediation is useful in highly polarized disputes where the parties have either been unable to initiate a productive dialogue, or where the parties have been talking and have reached a seemingly insurmountable impasse. The ADR Analyst or another neutral third party does not act as fact finder, judge or decision-maker. The Parties themselves arrive at what each of them agree is appropriate to resolve the issues.
o Educational Outreach – The use of resourceful marketing and training options to communicate to employees about ADR services offered and to provide conflict prevention, resolution, and management training (i.e., Addressing Conflict, Crucial Conversations, Working with Conflict) and training on other related workplace topics (i.e., Mastering Difficult Conversations, Essentials of Effective Teamwork, and Being Positive in the Workplace).
2. What are the benefits of using the ADR Center services to resolve my work-related issue?
The techniques utilized in alternative dispute resolution are designed to improve communication, working relationships, and the organizational culture in support of mission achievement. Listed below are some of the benefits obtained by using alternative dispute resolution techniques.
Provides an impartial, third party to facilitate resolution of disputes
Provides quick solutions to address work-related issues
Promotes creative problem-solving
Encourages open communication
Helps parties to demonstrate interpersonal skills to resolve disputes themselves
Provides skills to improve working relationships
Promotes organizational culture improvements to allow parties to participate in the creation of an outcome that works best for all parties
Helps to avoid lengthy litigation and the associated costs
3. What are the different types of work-related disputes, grievances, or complaints covered by the alternative dispute resolution process?
The following are the different types of work-related disputes, grievances, or complaints covered by the alternative dispute resolution process:
Dismissals and Suspensions
Employee Conduct Issues
Job Performance Issues
Selection and Promotion Issues
Non-Sexual and Sexual Harassment
Unlawful Discrimination (Equal Employment Opportunity)
EEO Complaints consist of allegations of discrimination in employment based on an individual’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability. EEO complaints may also include allegations of reprisal or sex-based wage discrimination.
If an employee or applicant believes they have been subjected to unlawful discrimination, the EEO Pre-complaint counseling begins with initially contacting the Office of Finance and Operations (OFO), Office of Equal Employment Opportunity Services (OEEOS). The employee/applicant has 45 calendar days from the date of the incident that gave rise to the complaint to contact EEO Services. If the alleged discrimination involves a personnel action (for example a demotion, removal or termination), EEO Services must be contacted within 45 calendar days of the effective date of the personnel action. EEO Services contact information is:
Michael Chew, Director, OEEOS
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
LBJ, Suite 1E-110
Washington, DC 20202
Phone: (202) 401-0691
Fax: (202) 205-5760
3. How do I seek assistance from the ADR Center and what is the process used to resolve a work-related issue?
All employees may seek assistance from the ADR Center at any time to informally resolve a wide range of work-related disputes, disagreements, or complaints. An ADR Analyst will assist you in informally resolving your work-related issue at the lowest level possible in an impartial and expeditious manner. The following steps briefly outline the process:
o Within 45 calendar days of the day an employee becomes aware of an incident needing resolution, they should schedule an appointment with an ADR Analyst to discuss the issue(s) and identify a process that best addresses the situation. (Note: If the matter involves a personnel action or a discriminatory act, an employee must initiate contact with the EEO Services within forty-five (45) calendar days of the date of the matter alleged to be discriminatory or, in the case of a personnel action, within forty-five (45) calendar days of the effective date of the action, or the date he or she became aware of the personnel action or discriminatory act.)
Within three (3) business days from the inquiry date, an ADR Analyst will contact the employee to discuss the matter via telephone or in person.
For up to 30 calendar days from the initial contact date the ADR Analyst will work with the employee to resolve the concern(s). In extenuating circumstances, an employee may request and may be granted 60 calendar days of additional engagement time to resolve the matter.
The ADR Analyst uses the following resolution techniques with individuals or groups:
— Individual interviews
— Coaching (individual or team)
— Specific topic focus groups
— Brainstorming problem solving
4. How do I prepare in order to get the best out of the alternative dispute resolution process?
The ADR Center can provide a quick and effective solution to a workplace dispute when utilized as a resource. In order to ensure that the ADR Center provides the best opportunity for resolution of a particular matter, it is recommended the employee takes time to think about the issue(s) and consider creative solutions to be discussed during the process.
Consider the following items prior to having a consultation with an ADR Analyst. This information will help facilitate that first conversation you have with the ADR Analyst and put you more quickly on the path to successfully resolving your concerns or issues.
What are your interests? What do you really need or want from your organization/leader? Prioritize these interests.
What do you think the other party really wants or needs? (Try to envision how you would react and what you would want if you were in their role.)
What from your perspective is realistic to request as a resolution(s)?
Identify and list as many creative goal-focused solutions to resolve your issue(s) as you can. (Think of solutions the other party may be open to that will meet your interests.) and support the mission of the agency.)
Prioritize the options and allow room for flexibility.
Think of what you can do to satisfy the interests of the other side.
If you have previously used the ADR Center’s services, tell us what you found most effective in the process and how that might be used to resolve the current matter.
I. Mediation Settlement Questions
Estimate what it will COST you if you DO NOT resolve the issue in the mediation.
Be prepared to compare your alternatives with what the other side offers in an informal session. Decide which is better, considering time, cost, uncertainty of outcomes, etc.
If you cannot get everything you want during the session, that about what you can live with, in order to get resolution now.
5. What are my rights during an informal or formal session?
All employees and external applicants have the following rights:
Right to Anonymity
The ADR Analyst (Mediator) will not reveal your identity during the informal stage regarding a matter brought to the ADR Center unless you authorize them to do so.
In order for the ADR Center to be successful, open and honest communications are essential. All verbal and written communications made during the ADR Center process are considered confidential. Exceptions to the confidentiality include, unless there are reasons presented by either party that indicate danger of bodily or egregious psychological harm, either party has threatened bodily or egregious psychological harm, to include criminal activity, and/or fraud, waste and abuse.
You have the right to seek representation throughout the informal and formal dispute resolution processes. The ADR Analyst (Mediator) acts strictly as a neutral in the process and is not an advocate or a representative for you or the Department.
Use of Government Property
The filing of a complaint is considered a personal action rather than one made in your official capacity. The use of government equipment for other than official business is authorized only if such use: (1) incurs only a negligible additional expense to the Department, (2) does not impede your ability or others to do their job, (3) occurs during off hours, whenever possible; and (4) is not for the purpose of generating income for other employees or another person. Use of official stationary, mail, or other official support service is prohibited and may result in disciplinary actions.
6. What are my options if my Pre-Grievance is not resolved during the informal stage?
If your Pre-Grievance is not resolved informally, you may elect to formally file and Administrative Grievance or Negotiated Grievance (bargaining unit employees).
—Dispute resolved: No additional action taken by the ADR Analyst.
—Dispute not solved: the ADR Analyst will issue non-bargaining employees a “Notice of Right to File” a formal Administrative Grievance to file with the servicing Human Resources Office. Bargaining Unit employees will be referred to their local Union Officials for assistance.