The author is an associate professor of management at the University of Houston in Clear Lake, Texas. He is also an active labor arbitrator and mediator. He would like to acknowledge the invaluable contribution of Brian Fleming of the Dallas office of the AAA. Discussions of his extensive work in the promotion of mediation first brought this issue to the author's attention. The author also appreciates his assistance in the preparation of early drafts of this article.
Corporate America's interest in alternative dispute resolution has become more intense in the last few years. This has been especially true in the realm of employment disputes. The regulatory impact of laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1991 has certainly hastened this movement. With more categories of protected classes, stiffer restitutionary provisions and more "plaintifffriendly" civil-procedure modifications, it is little wonder that many human resource executives are re-evaluating the feasibility of alternatives to litigation.
Arbitration has been adopted by many organizations, especially since the encouragement provided by the Supreme Court in the Gilmer case.1 Other organizations have been mindful of potential pitfalls in compulsory arbitration systems and have focused on more consensual processes such as mediation. Those who carry the mediation message to corporate management know that there is a reflexive response frequently expressed about its use. This is the often stated belief that organizations do not need outsiders to perform the role of mediator.2 In the words of one executive: "Why should we pay someone to do that when we have employees who would make excellent mediators?"