ADR pilot program aimed at conserving investigative resources
The agency receives approximately 2,500 whistleblower complaints annually, according to a statement. ADR "can assist complainants and respondents in resolving their disputes in a cooperative and voluntary manner, allowing OSHA to conserve limited investigative resources. ADR can also provide immediate relief, and finality, to both parties."
The Administrative Dispute Resolution Act amended in 1996 requires federal agencies to adopt a policy that addresses the use of ADR and case management. "Early resolution is a valuable alternative to the expensive and time-consuming process of an investigation," OSHA said. "Before beginning an investigation, OSHA will offer the parties the option to resolve their dispute (whistleblower complaint) quickly and informally with the assistance of an OSHA representative."
ADR is a voluntary process that typically involves the intervention of a third-party neutral to assist parties in resolving their conflict. In this case, OSHA has selected the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to serve as the neutral third-party mediator.
Each of the two regions selected, Chicago and San Francisco, will be authorized to conduct up to 15 mediation sessions and may continue to offer unlimited early resolution. The states covered by the two regions include Arizona, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Wisconsin, and various Pacific Islands, including the commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.
The pilot program is being funded by the Office of the Whistleblower Protection Program. Included will be FMCS mediation sessions and reasonable travel and per diem costs for the mediator.
After the first 120 days of the pilot, the program will be evaluated, and OSHA will decide whether to continue the pilot, expand it to other regions, implement it in all regions, or terminate it.
When a whistleblower complaint is filed with OSHA in either of the two pilot regions, the parties will be notified of their ADR options. The process works when the parties "participate in good faith," according to OSHA. "Participating in 'good faith' means that the parties engage in the process with openness to resolving the dispute and that they treat each other, the process and any third-party neutrals with respect. Parties should come fully prepared to discuss resolution of the dispute and must have full settlement authority."
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November 15, 2012
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