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E.E.O.C. U.A.M.s ... F.Y.I.

I was finishing up an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission mediation in Nashville on a bitterly cold day in 2014 when the federal mediator, Chris Wing, suggested that my client consider a national Universal Agreement to Mediate (“UAM”) with the EEOC.  I had never heard of it, nor have you in all probability.  No surprise to Mr. Wing.   He was sitting on a big secret, and he knew it. 

Before your internet-browser-loading-reflexes kick in -- the link you want is below.  If you want to leave my little blog at this point, at least come back when you are done.

https://www.eeoc.gov/questions-and-answers-universal-agreements-mediate-uams .

As Mr. Wing laid out the benefits of a UAM, I was thinking, “What’s the catch?”  There is none.  The UAM does not obligate an employer to mediate any specific charge of discrimination.  In fact, an employer with a UAM need not ever mediate a charge with the EEOC’s mediators.

A little later that year, my client became one of less than 500 companies to have a nationwide UAM with the EEOC.  Why?  I found two reasons to have a national UAM – or more precisely, I found one reason, twice.

First, when an employer like my client has a nation-wide footprint, the EEOC sends charges of discrimination anywhere and everywhere, and the deadline to respond can start ticking long before the legal department learns about the charge.  A UAM establishes a single point of contact for the EEOC to use with the employer, and you control that point of contact.  In theory, this should lead to learning about the charge sooner, rather than later.  Having more time is better than having less time. 

Second, when a charge is filed that meets the criteria for mediation, an employer with a UAM has up to 45 days to decide whether to mediate the charge, instead of the usual 15 days.  Since you do not have to file a statement of position to respond to the charge if the charge goes to mediation, this builds in additional time before the statement of position is due.  Having more time is better than having less time.

My Take – This is clearly not a high-profile program within the EEOC.  I do not think the EEOC’s district offices are in the habit of checking the UAM lists before issuing charges of discrimination.  As a result, in most instances, I have not seen the EEOC’s district offices follow the national UAM until after I made them aware of it.  That has led the district offices to modify position statement deadlines that originally fell within the 45-day period. 

P.S.  if you ever have a chance to mediate with Mr. Chris Wing in Nashville, take it.  He knows his craft.

May you find joy in what you do and who you are with.