Mediation and Arbitration Project
The Commission is embarking on a pilot project for doing mediation or arbitration on selected civil rights complaints. This process should bring a faster yet equitable resolution to many complaints that are awaiting investigation.
At a 1992 Iowa Bar Association Labor and Employment Law Seminar, several suggestions were profferred to make the discrimination complaint process more effective. Commission staff researched those suggestions and chose two as being especially promising in reducing the time it takes for a case resolution. Both suggestions involved asking attorneys and other interested individuals to assist with the mediation or arbitration of cases filed with the Commission, rather than waiting for a full investigation.
A survey letter was sent to 220 attorneys who practice labor and employment law. There were 59 responses, and nearly all indicated they would be willing to participate either as a pro bono arbitrator or mediator, or by representing clients in the program.
Two committees worked at setting the foundation for a mediation and arbitration program. The comniittees set up written guidelines, principles, procedures, statutory and rule changes, computerized forms and letters, an administrative structure, and a costs/benefits analysis.
Training assessment packets were sent to the attorneys who had indicated an interest in the program. On June 18, 1993, a training conference was held in Des Moines. Presenters at the conference included Rick Autry and Teresa Baustian, assistant attorneys general; Jim McClimon, arbitrator with the Public Employees Relations Board; and mediation consultant Dianne Dillon-Ridgley.
The sessions were videotaped, and copies made available to those attorneys who could not attend. The Iowa Supreme Court granted up to 6.5 hours of CLE credit for the attorneys who attended. A follow-up session is planned for next year where attorneys who are participating in the program can share some of their methods, successes and problems.
By the end of the fiscal year the program was in place, and it was anticipated that cases would be assigned to the volunteer attorneys starting in July 1993.
The program has generated a great deal of interest, and several more attorneys have contacted the agency and wanted to be included as volunteers. Additional volunteers are being sought, especially in the outlying parts of the state. In interested in this program, please call Dawn Peterson at 1-800-457-4416 or 515-281-8086.