The Department of Human Resources operates a mediation program to assist state employees with resolving certain workplace issues involving supervisors, subordinates or co-workers. DOHR describes mediation as “an opportunity to create a more positive working relationship by discussing issues in dispute, identifying your concerns and interests, and negotiating agreements with the help of two trained, neutral facilitators. You can enhance the potential for success by coming to the mediation prepared to speak honestly, listen carefully, and to present, exchange, and explore ideas for resolution.”
According to DOHR, access to the mediation program is available to any employee in the state service as a voluntary means of resolving workplace issues that are eligible for mediation, such as:
- Disciplinary actions taken against an employee,
- Workplace harassment and discrimination,
- Certain performance and conduct issues, and,
- Other workplace issues involving a relational, communication, or values conflict.
The mediators facilitate the process providing a structure and framework for the parties’ dialogue, establish some ground rules, and help each party to clarify ideas and concerns and formulate proposals for discussion. The mediators manage the process to ensure that both parties have the opportunity to hear and to be heard and to be active negotiators in seeking a mutual, voluntary resolution to issues.
There are numerous benefits to mediation that recommend it over filing complaints in court, being subjected to a disciplinary action or just doing nothing about a workplace problem:
- Mediation is free. The DOHR Mediation Program is available at no cost to the parties.
- Mediation is fair and neutral. Parties have an equal say in the process and they, not the mediator, decide the terms of the settlement. There is no determination of guilt or innocence in the process.
- Mediation saves time and money. Many mediations are completed in one meeting.
- Mediation fosters cooperation by promoting a problem-solving approach to complaints.
- Mediation improves communication and provides a neutral and confidential setting in which the parties can openly discuss their views on the underlying dispute. Enhanced communication can lead to mutually satisfactory resolutions.
- Mediation helps to discover the real issues in your workplace. Parties share information, which can lead to a better understanding of issues affecting the workplace.
State employees interested in taking advantage of the Tennessee Employee Mediation Program, may request a mediation by contacting DOHR at: DOHR.Mediation@tn.gov, or by calling (615) 253-4741. Also, TSEA Legal Services can advise you if your situation is suitable for the Tennessee Employee Mediation Program or you may call the program administrator directly at the telephone number listed above to discuss your situation.
By Jonathan Stephens
TSEA Staff Attorney