RULE 17. MEDIATION
Mediation is an informal process by which participants voluntarily meet to reach an agreement for a fair settlement of their dispute(s). Each mediation is conducted by a neutral Commission mediator who has experience in resolving disputes. The mediator facilitates the meeting, but does not give legal advice to the participants.
B. Duties of Mediator.
The mediator shall assist the participants in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute(s) through discussion and negotiation. The mediator shall be impartial, neutral, and unbiased. The mediator shall make no decisions for the participants. The mediator shall maintain the confidentiality of information obtained in the mediation process and will not testify for any participant should the case proceed to a formal hearing.
C. Request for Mediation.
At any point in the dispute resolution process, a person or party may request mediation of the dispute(s). If the mediation process is agreed by the opposing party, the Commission will schedule the mediation as soon as practicable.
D. Mediation Procedure.
1. An appropriate time and place for mediation will be established through coordination with the Commission. If mediation is held prior to hearing, the hearing date shall not be vacated unless the parties so request and the Commission so orders.
2. A person with full authority to settle the dispute shall participate or be available to participate in mediation proceedings. Any participant may be assisted by another person.
3. Mediation proceedings shall be regarded as settlement negotiations, and no admission, representation, or statement made in mediation, not otherwise discoverable or obtainable, shall be admissible as evidence in any proceeding before the Commission. All communications, whether verbal or written, from the participants to the mediator shall be confidential, unless otherwise agreed by the participants or ordered by an official with appropriate authority to do so.
4. In the event a mediation is conducted without good faith of either party or is vacated or cancelled within 48 hours of the scheduled meeting between the parties without good cause, sanctions may be imposed against the party responsible for the failure to proceed.
If the participants reach an agreement, the parties shall submit a written and signed settlement agreement for approval by the Commission.
COMMENTS: Subsection A defines the mediation process. This rule provides the working mechanism for resolution of issues at the Commission through a structured, but voluntary, mediation program.
Subsection B provides the scope of duties of the mediator in assisting the parties to reach a joint resolution.
Subsection C emphasizes that the mediation process can only be accomplished by the joint agreement of the parties.
Subsection D outlines the procedure to be followed by the participants in the mediation process. Since the mediation process is voluntary, the success of mediation is dependent in a large part on the good faith of each party coming to the mediation with the intention to settle the case. Without such initial commitment, the parties and Commission have expended unnecessary time and costs. Also, the parties need to extend sufficient notice if the mediation cannot go forward. If these common courtesies cannot be met, sanctions are available under paragraph 4.
Subsection E indicates that any agreement of the parties is still subject to approval by the Commission under its statutory responsibility to determine that such settlements are in the best interests of all parties.