EEOC Launches New Mediation Pilot Program

March 24, 2003 ( - The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has implemented a new voluntary mediation pilot program providing private sector employees another avenue to pursue discrimination charges filed with the EEOC.

>The new “referral back” mediation pilot, which will be carried out at the district office level, gives an individual who has filed a discrimination charge against a participating employer the option to have their charge referred back to the employer’s internal dispute resolution department, according to a news release.

>Should the employee choose such a route, the charge will be suspended for not more than 60 days to provide the charging party and the employer an opportunity to resolve the dispute using the employer’s dispute program.   If the dispute is resolved, the charge will be closed pursuant to the EEOC’s procedures governing withdrawal and settlement of charges. Otherwise, EEOC proceedings on the original charge will recommence.


>However, the mediation program is not without its caveats.   The provisions of the new pilot dictate that the EEOC will refer charges back to those employer-provided internal dispute resolution programs that meet the following criteria:

  • employee participation is voluntary
  • the program has clearly written procedures
  • the employer program is free to the employee
  • the program addresses all claims and relief under EEOC-enforced statutes
  • settlements obtained must be in writing and enforceable in court.

Cari Dominguez, chair of the EEOC, stressed the selection of an employer to participate in the pilot program does not constitute an endorsement or approval by the EEOC of an employer’s internal dispute resolution program. Instead, the EEOC is acknowledging that the employer’s internal program is the type of program that the EEOC is interested in evaluating for the pilot, Dominguez said.

Dominguez added: “We are interested in exploring whether existing employer-provided dispute resolutions programs that operate fairly and voluntarily, afford employees appropriate and meaningful remedies, and do not seek to interfere with the commission’s enforcement authority, can serve as an effective means of resolving employment discrimination charges filed with the EEOC.”