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Civil Rights News | June 20, 2024

What to Expect During Mediation

By Elliott Colon, Alternative Dispute Resolution Program Manager, Civil Rights Directorate

The Coast Guard’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process helps resolve Equal Employment Opportunity/Equal Opportunity (EEO/EO) conflicts quickly and efficiently. ADR involves a trained facilitator who helps the disputing parties reach an agreement through methods like mediation. In mediation, this facilitator, or mediator, is a neutral party who guides the discussion to help both sides find a mutually acceptable solution. 
Prior to arriving at a mediation session, keep a few things in mind:     

  • Come prepared to use the process as an opportunity to resolve a conflict.  
  • Be prepared to listen to each point of view.   
  • Be prepared to discuss or listen to concerns and options to resolve them.   
  • Be ready to focus on the future rather than who is right or who is wrong.   
  • Be ready to share creative solutions and consider alternatives.  

In preparing for the mediation session, one should look to answer three questions: 

  1. What are the differing perspectives that led to the conflict?  
  2. What is the desired outcome?   
  3. What will happen if no agreement is reached?   

So, what can you expect? 

When the mediation session begins, the mediator will start by establishing the ground rules that will help keep the process productive. Generally, the ground rules will include an agreement to keeping the discussions confidential, ensuring safety for all participants, courteous demeanor and respectful conversations for everyone. Recording of the discussions is not permitted and the participants will be asked to turn their cell phones off.  Any notes that are taken during a session will be collected and destroyed by the mediator at the end of the session.  Mediators will also be able to answer questions about the process. 

Both parties will then be given the opportunity to talk about the issues from their perspective. After everyone has shared their viewpoint, the mediator will guide the process and help both sides work toward a potential resolution.  

The mediator is not a judge or a decision-maker. The purpose of mediation is not to determine whether discrimination occurred. Rather, the goal is to resolve the complaint so that both parties can successfully return to the focus of the mission. The mediator’s role is to facilitate the communication process. The solution is up to the participants. The mediator does not decide the outcome, the parties do. The mediator will:  

  • Listen to both participants’ topics and explanations.   
  • Ask questions to understand; and explain to you what they heard to ensure your point was heard correctly.   
  • Remain impartial and neutral.  
  • Guide you through the process for both parties to develop solutions.   
  • Assist in writing the settlement agreement both parties develop.  

If you have questions about ADR or would like more information about mediation, contact the Solutions & Complaints ADR Program at You can also access a list of frequently asked questions about ADR on the Civil Rights Directorate’s website

If you are experiencing a workplace conflict that you believe is based upon a protected status (age, race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, genetic information, retaliation, or parental status) you can contact your local Civil Rights Service Provider for assistance.