The Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 1998 (ADRA) (28 USC 651 et seq.) mandates that courts establish and authorize the use of ADR, including mediation and arbitration, in all civil actions. Courts maintain their individual discretion to decide at what stage in the litigation process a court offers mediation or other ADR to the parties. Local rules establish ADR procedure in the federal courts.
In the area of statutory ADR, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service was created by Congress in 1947 as an independent agency poised to assist and promote sound labor-management relations. It offers ADR services in a variety of formats, including dispute mediation and preventive (issue) mediation.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) mediation program began as a pilot experiment in 1991 in four field offices. By 1999, the EEOC’s proposed budget included a $13 million allocation for the expansion of its mediation program. EEOC continues to develop and train internal mediators employed by EEOC s well as external mediators hired on a contract basis, to promote mediation as a possible resolution for some EEOC claims.
The federal government also encourages mediation and arbitration within its own ranks. Federal agencies are free to set up their own procedural ADR programs for the handling of both internal and external disputes. The Administrative Dispute Resolution Act of 1996 provides a mediation forum for handling disputes within agencies, or between citizens and agencies (claims against the government).