Keep Matters Moving: Video-Mediate With a Proficient, Mediator-Host

It’s increasingly important to find ways to keep cases moving and conserve or access resources to minimize backlogs, be able to accept new matters, and more.  Tell clients, opposing counsel and colleagues:

Video-conferenced (Zoom) Mediating Is
Effective, Resourceful, & a Smart Thing To Do

Cases Progress, Costs Are Minimized, & Parties Move On

Proficiency of the mediator-host factors into success, however. Study and experiential understanding is necessary to acquire this competence and ensure that use of the technology is a convenience, not a distraction. These measures also help the mediator to anticipate the needs of a productive video-conferenced mediation and, thus, help effectively prepare the participants. I have come to realize, for example, the significance of:

  • Conducting a pre-session Zoom conference with each attorney to
    • prepare substantively,
    • acclimate them to the platform,
    • point out a number of essential privacy and safety features I have knowingly enabled, and
    • provide useful tips to make the most of the medium 
  • Providing detailed preparatory information and instructions, and
  • Outlining session parameters about what participants can expect, such as:
    • Individual private (breakout) rooms for each party, and other congregations,
    • Ability to view/hear/chat privately with one or more participants within a breakout room, and
    • Ability to share, annotate and commonly view documents.

The result should be a flow of focused interaction between the mediator and parties, movement with ease between and among them, and an absence of concern for the construct. A mediator who is well versed in the format is the one who can maximize attention on the work at hand, and minimize what may take away from it.

I can personally attest to the advantage of being fluent in Zoom. As a result of my facility with it, I am fluidly conducting Zoom meetings and mediations and settling cases. I have found that my proficiency instills confidence in parties’ use and reliance. All that’s needed is an internet connection and a desktop computer, tablet or phone with a camera and mic. These components are built into most devices. An inexpensive clip-on camera that is plug-and-go ready is usually the most someone may need to add.

There’s no need to put matters off. Please contact me to discuss or schedule. I’d be more than happy to walk you through. 

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Coronavirus Coping: Embrace Technology and Put Familiarity To Use

Photo Credit: Zoom.us

The interruption of work and incomes for practitioners and clients alike is a great concern due to the ramifications of stemming the spread of the coronavirus. Personal health and safety are the unrivaled priorities, but work reduction and economic instability can quickly undermine the systems and services that provide for them. We’re fortunate to have technologies with great virtual versatility, as well as second-nature familiarity with them, all of which can be used to cope and lessen impact. Now is the time to begin fully embracing and applying these resources.

I, for one, continue to manage in-person mediations with spacial and sanitary measures, but am also effectively helping parties settle with the use of teleconferencing and email. Easy-to-install programs make videoconferencing an enhancement, also.

Cases are settling, costs are minimized, & parties are moving on.

Yes, mediation by telecommunication is different, but it may surprise you to realize how quickly participants acclimate. A well-versed mediator can comfortably engage parties and constructively move them through negotiations this way.

I encourage you to use these resources and keep the many benefits of mediation and settlement undisturbed for yourself and those you serve.

I’d be glad to help, please be in touch.

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Happy Thanksgiving (and some Ruffled Feather Avoidance Tips)

Wishing you a very
Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Ruffled Feathers Avoidance Tips (Because, Holidays…)

  • When you feel the temperature rise, wait a beat or two and take a breath with each.  Ask yourself whether a response is going to improve the circumstances, or if it can wait.  “This, too, shall pass” gets help from letting time do its part.  
  • When someone raises a prickly issue, memory or unsettled matter, have a few subject-changing topics to ask about, or kid-friendly jokes at the ready to redirect the conversation. 
    • Ask about vacation plans or recent trips.
    • Ask whether there are pictures to share of new family members (weddings, children, grandchildren, pets…).
    • Tell a “Why did the turkey cross the road” joke.  (To prove it wasn’t chicken; Because it was free-range…)
    • Start asking for a “gratitude” from each of the people you’re with;  include a talking (“bread”) stick that’s passed to each person whose turn it is to answer. 
    • Compliment a dish or effort someone made, and ask them about it.  
  • Suggest a toast to making the day a “white flag day” if something starts to escalate. Let people know you hear them, even if you disagree, but offer the truce of agreeing to disagree and keep things festive for the day.  

Cheers!

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Looking At Equal Pay: What It’s Based On, Where It’s Found, And the Resolution-Value of Mediation (Confidentiality) For All

To help highlight the breadth of consideration Equal Pay issues ought to receive, by plaintiffs and defendants, I found an article by Allen Smith, J.D. which I believe encapsulates the gravamen of Equal Pay litigation.  Tougher State Laws Increase Scrutiny on Pay Equity“:

  • dissects Federal vs. State claim considerations
  • points out potential damage exposure by a lack of diversity and inclusion, 
  • illuminates what those factors, sometimes subtly, convey in terms of evidence, and personnel attraction and retention, and
  • a variety of employment practice areas that ought to be part of the analysis

Consider some of the insight the author/article shares:

  • “Don’t look at pay equity in isolation…. [A] pay equity study should look at applications, hires, promotions and terminations….”
  • “An employer may have equitable recruiting and hiring, but also have high turnover and not be a good place to work at as a woman, for example.”
  • “The central question that is being litigated more often these days is whether an employer has done a study on whether such [pay disparity] factors truly are job-related and consistent with business necessity.”

Another matter to think about is how to address the inequity.  A challenge to pay parity could be harmful to one financially and professionally.  It may bring scrutiny to someone or a business that exceeds expectations and could lead to unintended consequences

I can help.  By engaging in an organizational mediation (or mediation within the workplace), parties can prudently address their concerns as quickly, confidentially and creatively as possible.  The sooner the better.  Having mediated many hundreds of workplace conflicts in their early stages, I can say that time is not on either party’s side.  Left alone, the issues can:

  • grow,
  • permeate the workforce,
  • affect morale and relationships,
  • give rise to other claims, or
  • at the very least, draw on limited reserves in the course of confronting, analyzing and/or correcting possible liabilities.

Remedies that may only be available early on can also be lost.

If you have any matters pending now, developing, or with potential for dispute, please call or write me. I may be available on short notice.  I am available to consult and mediate, as well as present, in-house, publicly and on professional associations panels. Recommendations to colleagues are also most welcome. I am confident our time will be productive.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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The Benefits Of Mediating Noncompliance Matters – Sooner Rather Than Later

Stakes over noncompliance are getting higher. Partly because there is more to keep abreast of, and partly because of increased enforcement.

Recent changes in workplace law reflect a robust effort afoot to find, crack down on and deter future noncompliance infractions. There is a spotlight on worker classification, wage payment, minimum wage accuracy (tip offset calculations), overtime, and workplace safety, in addition to medical leaves, parental/maternity leaves, FMLA availability and accounting, hiring practices, and disability qualification and/or accommodation, among other matters.

Upon first realization of a noncompliance issue, it is natural for some degree of the following to take place:

1.) Discovery
2.)  Panic
3.)  Address in person
4.)  Failure to resolve
   4.a.)  Relations sour and exacerbate the conflict
5.)  Litigate? Or … Mediate.

Mediating first may feel out of order, the thinking being “If things didn’t work out with a direct face to face, why should I expect someone to yield absent judicial involvement?” Mediation is, however, worth utilizing early on. It can work because it provides things that are missed in taking a subjective approach:

  • distance,
  • filtering, and
  • organized thinking and problem solving.

Mediation is low risk damage management; while litigation
out of the gate and its exacerbation of tension may, in fact, be overkill. Compliance issues are relatively easy to assess.  It’s the “how to resolve” aspect that mediation takes care of.

Many cases coming to me now correspond to a heightened awareness of such compliance concerns and – not surprisingly – the strain of potential extraordinary damages (e.g., trebling, attorneys fees, and interest). 

The conflicts in these cases reveal varying degrees of misunderstanding and miscommunication about the law and legal responsibilities. Fortunately, these are matters especially suited for mediation. Consider, therefore, the benefit of sooner addressing, clarifying and correcting compliance issues, versus:

  • the time and expense of bloated courtroom dockets,
  • the relatively modest amount of time it takes to assess such matters
  • the persistent, and sometimes worsening, complications of disputes, particularly with a current employer/employee,
  • the inherent expenses in ongoing conflict and the possibility of escalating costs/losses such as personal/business reputation damage, interruption in career or professional advancements, and drains on valuable time, to name a few, and
  • the potential for attrition (lost personnel/professional investments and stability), erosion of workplace morale and commitment (productivity).

Early mediation is a sound, pragmatic, and expedient option.  It can:

  • provide immediate relief, enabling parties to move on with their jobs and business quickly
  • help parties incur as little as possible of the damage that litigation otherwise inflicts  
  • let participants maximally and optimally leverage money available to resolve the dispute and enhance the likelihood of settlement.  

Keep in mind that mediation does not do away with the litigation option and the vindication/damages potentially available. Litigation, however, can complicate, delay and even reduce the chances for a more beneficial resolution – mediated or otherwise.

If you have any matters pending now or developing, talk to a mediator. Choose someone who is adept at resolving workplace conflict; someone with extensive experience in and exposure to a broad variety of personalities, conflicts, workplaces, industries and resolutions. This will pay dividends by saving time, earnings, jobs, workers, HR and management resources, and more.

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