Below are FAQs about the FLRA's ADR Services. If you have additional questions, please contact the appropriate FLRA office.
What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?
ADR at the FLRA is a diverse set of process tools that external third parties use to help labor and management representatives prevent and solve problems that often arise during litigation.
ADR practitioners at the FLRA help parties engage more constructively to develop interest-based solutions to pending negotiability appeals, arbitration exceptions, impasse-bargaining disputes, unfair labor practice cases, and representation cases. We also help labor and management representatives learn how to prevent these types of disputes from arising, successfully manage such disputes when they are unavoidable, and resolve them without third parties when possible.
Why Use ADR in Labor-Management Relationships?
The goal of ADR is to solve problems rather than answer legal questions. The effect of ADR therefore can be more practical, far-reaching and long-lasting.
Employers and labor organizations usually share common interests in solving workplace problems. Both often recognize that everyone benefits from solutions that improve mission performance, quality of work life, and workplace engagement. But employers and labor organizations often damage their ability to solve critical problems when they regularly engage in position-based bargaining and other traditional dispute-resolution processes like litigation. It is not uncommon for one party to define "winning" by whether the other party lost more than they did.
ADR providers can help employers and labor organizations attack problems rather than each other. This enables parties to minimize damage to the labor-management relationship that otherwise occurs when litigating. Participants in the ADR process can learn how to work together for mutual success and redefine what it means to win.
Unlike litigation, where a third party determines the outcome of a workplace dispute, ADR tools like mediation help preserve party control over the outcome of the dispute.
"Interests" are the reasons why we care about the outcome of our disputes. ADR enables parties to seek outcomes that best satisfy their key interests. In contrast, litigation and other traditional dispute-resolution methods focus on mutually exclusive positions that often have no connect to their parties' interests. As a result, litigants might lose what is most important even when they appear to win the case.
ADR is often quicker and more private than traditional dispute-resolution methods.
ADR processes tend to be less formal, less risky, and less costly. ADR outcomes tend to be more creative and innovative.
Some forms of ADR enable a greater number of individuals to actively participate in resolving the dispute. This can result in solutions that are more satisfying to stakeholders, as well as easier implementation and better compliance than solutions imposed by outsiders.
Consistent use of ADR techniques can improve labor-management relationships, problem solving abilities, mission accomplishment, quality of work life, and employee engagement.
What types of ADR services does the FLRA provide?
ADR methods used by various components of the FLRA include facilitation, mediation, mediation-arbitration (med-arb), fact finding, early neutral evaluation, settlement conference, constructive engagement, and some forms of training.
Facilitation is a process in which someone with no stake in the outcome -- a facilitator -- manages group process to help participants better accomplish their goals. Facilitators provide structure, help participants develop ground rules and remain focused, and manage discussion, group dynamics, conflict, communication, problem solving, and decision making.
In mediation, a neutral third party helps participants identify issues, focus on interests, explore options, and negotiate a solution that best satisfies participants' interests. Mediators do not render a decision on the merits, and many mediators refrain from even speculating about outcome.
Med-Arb is a process in which a third party first serves as a mediator to help parties negotiate a solution. If parties fail to achieve a complete solution, then the third party becomes an arbitrator who recharacterizes information as evidence and renders a decision (usually binding) concerning unresolved issues.
In fact-finding, a third-party subject-matter expert conducts an informal investigation, makes factual determinations, and sometimes helps parties use the determinations to negotiate solutions.
Early neutral evaluation
In early neutral evaluation (ENE), parties use an ADR provider, usually with substantive expertise, to evaluate the relative merits of the case. Parties often deliver an informal presentation to the ADR provider highlighting their best case. At the conclusion, the ADR provider offers a non-binding, objective assessment, thereby increasing the chances that negotiation between the parties will be productive.
In a settlement conference, a neutral person, other than the judge to whom the case is assigned, helps parties evaluate whether litigation or settlement in the instant case best serves their interests. Settlement officials sometimes help parties better appreciate the riskiest aspects of their case and even offer informal advisory opinions about elements of the case. If the parties do not reach a full settlement, the settlement official steps aside and the case continues in a traditional fashion before the assigned judge.
Participants seek to identify common goals and interests, and establish clear lines of communication. The process may involve a joint workshop managed by a neutral individual, to develop necessary skills, a common vision, and a team charter. The charter usually includes a commitment to use collaborative forms of ADR to prevent, manage, and resolve disputes that inevitably arise in any workplace relationship.
Are all FLRA ADR programs voluntary?
Yes, except those that the Federal Service Impasses Panel might order.
Where do the FLRA's ADR programs fit in the normal case processing?
The FLRA's regulations for negotiability, arbitration exceptions, unfair labor practice cases, representation cases, and collective-bargaining impasses all provide for opportunities to use appropriate ADR methods to resolve, or at least narrow, the scope of disputes in these cases. For example, as soon as parties file a negotiability petition or arbitration exceptions, by mutual agreement most parties can use CADRO ADR services. In unfair labor practice cases, an ADR process enables parties to engage in a facilitated problem-solving approach rather than the traditional Regional-Office investigation and determination. For cases pending before an FLRA administrative law judge, the FLRA Office of Administrative Law Judges' Settlement Judge Program, in collaboration with CADRO, offers parties an opportunity to resolve the case through a settlement conference.
Which FLRA components offer ADR services?
All FLRA components offer ADR services.
The Office of the General Counsel (OGC) offers ADR services in pending unfair labor practice and representation cases. Through its Regional Offices and the OGC National Office, the OGC provides facilitation, intervention, training, and education services to agencies and unions.
The Collaboration and ADR Office (CADRO) offers mediation services in negotiability cases and arbitration exceptions pending before the Authority. CADRO conducts settlement conferences for ULP complaints that are scheduled for hearing before an ALJ. CADRO also offers facilitation, constructive engagement development, integrative bargaining training, ADR training, and other joint labor-management training. CADRO helps build internal FLRA capacity to improve delivery of ADR services, and it supports all FLRA components in the delivery of ADR services.
The Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ) offers settlement judge services for parties that have hearings on ULP complaints pending before an ALJ.
The Federal Service Impasses Panel utilizes ADR methods in collective-bargaining impasses before the Panel. The Panel might use a combination of mediation, med-arb, and other ADR methods deemed appropriate on a case-by-case basis.