Most business owners are sold on the benefits of mediation. What they don’t know is how to use this tool in their business. Some suggestions:
First, require mediation.
Every business has written agreements with some people and entities that are part of its business model. Employees, customers, contractors, agents, suppliers, affiliates, and others have some form of business agreement with your business. Every business could have a dispute with any of these elements of its business model. Each business can and should adopt a mediation position that it incorporates in each of these written agreements with its business “partners.”
Let’s look at employees. Employees start out as job applicants. They submit written job applications. As soon as your business announces a job opening, there are obligations under state, federal, and local laws not to discriminate or infringe civil rights, among others. Job applications are the natural place to state your commitment to mediating disputes and require the applicant to agree to mediate before filing claims or suing your business. The successful applicants and the unsuccessful applicants will be bound by this promise to mediate first.
What about customers? The variety of customer “engagement” communications in which a mediation first requirement can be inserted is vast. Let’s take a simple one, a job proposal for a construction project. There are countless varieties of forms and formats for these common contract documents. Every business has developed some language that describes its terms for offering to perform services. That proposal “boiler plate” may not be something the business even thinks twice about now but it includes obligations that carry through to the end of the project. It could just as easily include a requirement for pre-litigation mediation as anything else it includes. Supply orders can include pre-litigation mediation requirements too.
The opportunities are endless once you have made the commitment to mediate before allowing your business to be sued.