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NOAA Alternative Dispute Resolution Program

Mediation Services: The Mediation Process We Use at NOAA

At NOAA we use an interest-based mediation model. The mediators are rigorously trained to maintain neutrality and to be impartial facilitators of settlement agreements. They will not judge the facts in a case or advocate for either side of the dispute. They will maintain the confidentiality of the session and help you develop options. The session will generally follow the format outlined below:

Opening statement by mediators:

The mediators introduce themselves and outline the format of the mediation. You will be asked to confirm that you are willing to negotiate in good faith and that you intend to conduct the session with common courtesy.

Opening statement by participants:

Each participant makes an opening statement. This opening statement will be an uninterrupted time to speak for each person. After each participant finishes, the mediators will reflect back the statement and ask clarifying questions. Your statement should include as clear a picture as possible about the circumstances that led up to the mediation, both the facts as you see them, and how you feel about the situation.

Agenda Building:

Together, all participants list the issues that need to be resolved in order to reach settlement. These issues can be of concern to one or both parties. As much as possible, the interests behind each of the issues should be listed as well.


In this step you will be exploring interests and developing options that satisfy all or part of the interests of all the parties to the dispute. You will be thinking of ways to craft a workable, mutually satisfactory solution or relationship for the future.


From time to time during the negotiation phase of the mediation, the mediators or the participants may decide it would be beneficial for the parties to meet with the mediators separately. Discussions held in caucus are doubly confidential, that is, the mediators will not share those discussions with the other side unless specifically asked to do so.

Writing the Settlement Agreement:

Once you have reached agreement on all or some of the issues being mediated, you and the other participants will draft a written settlement agreement. If the mediation originated from an EEO complaint, your agreement will have standard settlement language which the mediators will provide. It’s important to remember that this settlement must be satisfactory to both sides. The language of the points of agreement will be the participants, and you’ll need to pay particular attention to making it specific, so your intentions will be clear to those reviewing it, and clear to each of you in the future.

Getting preliminary concurrence from Office of General Counsel:

Once you have drafted the agreement, a copy is sent to the Office of General Counsel attorney assigned to the mediation for preliminary review and concurrence. The attorney may suggest wording changes to make your meaning clearer, or the attorney may require more substantive changes if a provision in the agreement violates law, regulation or policy.

Participants Sign Agreement:

When the needed changes have been made, you and the other participants will sign the final draft, which means that you are satisfied with the agreement and are willing to abide by its provisions.

Agreement Reviewed and Signed by Office of General Counsel, Human Resources, and Office of Civil Rights (for EEO cases):

When each reviewing office has signed the agreement, it is considered to be final and it is enforceable. You will receive a copy, usually by mail. If you believe a provision of this final agreement is not being followed, or you wish to modify some part of the agreement, you should contact the Civil Rights Office or the ADR Program staff.

Assessing Whether the Mediation Process Worked for You:

Whether or not you reach settlement in your mediation, we want to know how the process worked for you, and any suggestions you have for improving the system. Your mediators will give you a survey form to complete at the end of the session. Please contact the ADR Program staff if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.