I was asked by a client where their mediation should be performed. It got me thinking that I should probably share what goes into the decision about mediation location. For me it’s pretty much an even split on the question of who books the location for a mediation. Sometimes it’s the parties and other times it is me. When I book a location here is the stuff I think about.
I have three general rules for mediation location:
- The mediation location must be neutral
- The mediation location must be private
- The mediation location must be comfortable
Mediations run on participation of all parties. People are more likely to participate if they feel the process is fair. The selection of a location needs to include considerations of fairness. For grievance mediations or termination of employment mediations this usually means a location that is not the workplace. It can be in the mediator’s offices or in one of the lawyer’s offices. The parties may also suggest other facilities that offer suitable rooms like hotels or court reporters’ offices.
For mediations between employees in conflict the workplace can be appropriate, but I wouldn’t recommend hosting the mediation in one of the parties offices. A conference room or a manager’s office (provided the manager was not a party in conflict) could work. An employer that runs a small business like a hair salon or a restaurant, could use the common space during non operating hours.
The key consideration here is that the place of the mediation should not give any party a perceived advantage in the mediation.
Privacy is important to the mediation process. First and foremost privacy allows the process to happen. Interruptions from outsiders to deal with outside issues interrupt the flow and can leave the other parties feeling under valued. This creates another relationship issue that needs to be addressed before the parties can resolve their conflict. The other reason that privacy can be important is because one party or the other may see value in keeping the settlement and the discussions private. Once that value is surrendered it cannot be regained. To maximize the options for the parties at the table privacy during mediation is important, so a location should be selected with privacy in mind.
Good deals that create value for everyone take time. Having uncomfortable people who just want to get the heck out of the mediation room doesn’t help the process. Creature comforts and a break out space are important ingredients for a successful mediation. Some experts observe that a sizable amount of deal making happens in the hallways and lounges around the mediation room.
Other considerations for Mediation Location
The three main elements of neutrality, privacy and comfort are supported by other considerations:
Some rooms are free and some cost money. Grievance mediations at employer or union offices were once entirely unheard of, but now some unions and employers are under pressure to control costs and are increasingly willing to use facilities they own.
Armies march on their stomachs. While not much marching happens during mediation, the parties to mediation negotiate on their stomachs. Lets face it, no deal is getting done when both sides are hangry. Food should be either brought in or available near by. Sometimes having food brought in allows parties to problem solve while eating. Other times leaving for food allows a mental break that is helpful in adjusting perspective. In anycase food is required for proper functioning and it should be considered.
It won’t be much of a mediation if everyone who needs to be there can’t make it there. If a party needs an access ramp or elevator to attend, the mediator must ensure that the mediation is accessible. Consideration may also be given to selecting a place that is accessible to transit or close to the parties.
The place of the mediation is generally decided during the initial intake to mediation. All the above factors are guidelines that generally help ensure success of mediations. I work with the parties to help figure out what is best for their unique situation. In the end, the most important thing is that all sides agree to the location.
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If you are thinking about mediating your employment dispute in the Toronto area or anywhere in Canada consider contacting us for a free consultation to see if Wakely Mediation can help you or your business.