Employment related disputes include a large variety of claims originating from different causes. Employment contract breaches involve compensation or benefits, sick leave or vacation, non-compete agreements, confidentiality agreements, and terminations. Employment disputes are often the result of state and federal wage and hour law violations. These cases may also arise out of retaliation for filing a Worker’s Compensation claim.
Furthermore, sexual harassment in the workplace is one of the most sensitive areas of litigation in employment cases. Improper sexual conduct on the job leaves an intense impact on everyone involved. Perhaps the most painful step for a victim is to report the harassment because of the fear of not being taken seriously. That is especially the case if the offender is a superior or a business owner. Then there is the arduous task of proving sexual harassment allegations. Sexual misconduct usually occurs in a private setting when the victim and the offender are alone. There are no witnesses around, and there is hardly any physical evidence such as letters or text messages.
In addition to sexual harassment, employees often face different forms of discrimination based on their race, religion, or sexual orientation.
In Florida most employer-employee relationships are at-will, meaning an employer can terminate an employee without giving reasons at all. However, sometimes there is a contract dealing with mutual rights and obligations. Most of the mentioned claims represent a breach of an employment contract.
Breach of employment contract disputes are traditionally a matter of court litigation. But that is not the only way to resolve a legal dispute. In employment related cases, alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation and arbitration are far more convenient and cost efficient.
Employment mediation is a highly effective and mutually beneficial method of settling workplace related disputes. Unlike litigation, which often takes years, mediation enables the parties to resolve their conflict in a matter of a few days.
Mediation enables the parties to present their claims to a neutral third person called the mediator. The mediator is chosen voluntarily by the parties by signing the mediation agreement. It is usually a retired judge or another professional with the expertise and experience in workplace discrimination, labor law violations, and sexual harassment claims.
One of the most significant features of a mediation procedure is its confidentiality. Any employment claim remains within the walls of the mediation session room, and nothing discussed with the mediator becomes a part of the public record. That maybe crucial in cases involving claims of sexual harassment or other misconduct.
The mediator conducts a series of talks with each side separately. During private sessions, the parties present their positions regarding the dispute, enabling the mediator to assess the parties positions and thereby provide the best means of facilitating a settlement. The mediator may continue with each party separately or request the parties come together for a joint session. The principal purpose of a mediation is to find common ground that leads to an agreement. If the settlement is signed, it represents a binding agreement for both parties.
Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution method which more resembles a traditional trial.
But unlike court litigation, there is no judge or a jury in arbitration. The parties to the employment dispute present their claims to an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators who are always former judges or attorneys. The legal basis for arbitration is an arbitration agreement. In most cases, it is the clause of an employment contract.
There is no settlement in arbitration. Since it resembles court litigation, the arbitrators issue a decision, and their ruling is mandatory and enforceable in the same way as a court’s judgment.
However, arbitration is less formal than litigation because there are no strict rules of evidence like in a court trial. That enables the arbitrator to resolve the dispute based on his sense of fairness, regardless of any procedure. Of course, the lack of strict and complex rules makes employment arbitration time saving and more cost effective than an actual trial.
Both mediation and arbitration are informal, confidential, and far less expensive than litigation. For these reasons, mediation and arbitration are important mechanisms for resolving compensation claims related to workplace accidents.