Sexual Harassment and Bullying: Mediation’s Role

This article examines the role of mediation in resolving sexual harassment and bullying issues in the workplace.

By Bert Binder 

Mediation in sexual harassment and bullying

The role of mediation in sexual harassment and bullying situations.

Sexual harassment and/or bullying in the workplace or in an academic setting is obviously very upsetting and confusing to the victim and the people around them. The deeper problem is that the perpetrator may be in denial about their actions and their consequences. Since often monetary considerations constitute a secondary issue, resolving bullying and sexual harassment claims are ideal for mediation which because of the voluntary nature of the solution may encompass relief not available in court. That having been said it is critical that everyone involved know the scope and limitations of alternate dispute resolution (ADR) in issues of sexual harassment and bullying.

The specific skill set needed.

Not every trained and certified mediator is appropriate to assist in a sexual harassment or bullying dispute. Many of the most experienced and highest-rated professional mediators are active or former attorneys and judges whose skill sets are geared towards a monetary award. This type of background may not effective in emotionally-charged sexual harassment and bullying cases. Be certain that the mediator you choose experience in and has successfully resolved prior similar matters. When having initial consultation with a mediator, make sure he/she is one that understands the issues involved in interpersonal mediations and is fully cognizant of the interplay in “Victim-Offender” situations.

The goal.

The goal of mediation in sexual harassment and bullying cases differs for each side and may differ slightly from case to case. However, in many, if not most, situations, the accused bully or predator will likely be trying to save face and extricate himself from an embarrassing or anger-inducing situation. On the other hand, the victim will value the restoration of his/her safety and security above all else. These two goals may appear contradictory at first but a skilled mediator will be able to bring them into conjunction with patient, professional guidance.

It’s vital that the mediator avoid antagonizing the alleged harasser but still allow the victim t feel a sense of security. If the harasser feels he was pressured into a compromise he doesn’t like, this may only cause his belligerence towards the victim to continue and result in harassment being repeated. It’s incumbent on the mediator to ensure that both sides support the compromise they help construct. This involves putting aside any personal feelings regarding what the harasser is accused of doing and seeing only the goal of a mutually-supported solution. The best way a mediator can help a victim is in building a solution that will truly resolve the matter.

Litigation is already stressful and emotionally destructive, and thus is often the worst possible choice for victims of bullying or harassment. Mediation can be an effective way to give them a sense of justice and safety, effusing the underlying problem and doing so without the downside of cross-examination and the general angst involved with any courtroom experience.

Expert Author Bert BinderIf you're involved in a dispute, consult with Bert Binder of Affordable Dispute Resolution. Mr. Binder has handled different types of cases as a litigator and mediator and has helped people reach fair & affordable resolutions over matters involving business, employment, labor, real estate and probate disputes. Visit http://www.affordabledisputeresolution.com or call 201-790-3553.
photo credit: Robert Reukema, LLM via photopin cc

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