New York City Human Rights Law § 8-115 permits the New York City Commission on Human Rights (“Commission”) to attempt resolution of complaints filed with the agency through the use of mediation. The Commission’s Office of Mediation and Conflict Resolution (“OMCR”), independent from any other Commission office, provides parties with mediation services, at no cost, to help facilitate resolution.
Mediation is a form of dispute resolution that serves as an informal alternative to the traditional investigative or litigation process. In mediation, a neutral third party known as a mediator helps the parties reach a voluntary, negotiated resolution. Mediation gives the parties the opportunity to meet and discuss their views of the case; clear up misunderstandings; identify underlying interests and concerns; find areas of agreement; and identify creative solutions. The goal of mediation is for the parties to reach a mutually acceptable outcome of the pending dispute. Mediation is not so much about finding truth or justice as it is about searching for options and crafting solutions that allow the parties to move forward and put the dispute behind them.
No. Mediation is voluntary. A case will only be referred to OMCR if all parties agree to mediate and the Law Enforcement Bureau (“LEB”) agrees the case is appropriate for mediation. Any party may choose to discontinue the mediation at any time. The mediator may also choose to terminate the mediation.
A mediator is an independent person, experienced and trained in the mediation process, who assists the parties in reaching an agreement. A mediator does not take sides or decide who is right or wrong. Instead, the mediator is impartial and neutral.
Fair and Neutral: Parties have equal say in the process and decide the settlement terms.
Informal: The parties can speak candidly during the mediation without fear that what is said will be held against them later.
Saves Time and Money: Mediation requires less time and expense than an investigation or trial.
Confidential: Prior to mediation, all parties sign an agreement of confidentiality stating that information disclosed during mediation will be kept confidential, unless otherwise discoverable as required by law or pursuant to a court order, subpoena, or other validly issued order or notice of a court or administrative body of competent jurisdiction.
Information disclosed during the mediation will not be revealed by OMCR to any other employee of the Commission. Although the Commission is subject to the New York State Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”) which governs the process for the public disclosure of certain records maintained by the Commission, the law contains several exemptions that may apply to documents, or portions thereof gathered during the mediation process. See Public Officers Law Article 6, §§ 84-90.
Certainty: Mediation avoids the uncertainty of investigative and litigation outcomes.
Empowering: The parties control the outcome of the dispute.
Are Attorneys Needed?
While it is not necessary to have an attorney or other representative participate in mediation, it is encouraged. Attorneys can assist the parties in understanding the law and making informed decisions. The mediator does not provide legal advice to the parties. Therefore, parties are encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney to assist in representing them during the mediation, particularly prior to signing any settlement agreement.