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Frequently Asked Questions

Alternative Dispute Resolution


What is Alternative Dispute Resolution at USDA?
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How long does it take to resolve a matter through USDA's Alternative Dispute Resolution Programs?
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What services does the USDA Alternative Dispute Program offer?
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How can I determine if my conflict or complaint is appropriate for USDA Alternative Dispute Resolution?
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Who do I contact for information about Alternative Dispute Resolution at USDA?
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What should I expect when I contact the Office of Early Resolution and Conciliation Division about Alternative Dispute Resolution?
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What is Alternative Dispute Resolution at USDA?

The terms "alternative dispute resolution" or "ADR" are used to describe a variety of non-adversarial techniques to resolving conflict. When non-adversarial approaches are used, the parties in the conflict decide what techniques they want to use to resolve their own problems. This is different from traditional administrative processes used for Administrative Grievances, Negotiated Grievances, Unfair Labor Practices, and Prohibited Personnel Practices. ADR does not employ adjudicatory methods, in which a judge or hearing officer decides how to resolve the dispute for the people in the conflict.

How long does it take to resolve a matter through USDA's Alternative Dispute Resolution Programs?

Many disputes are resolved in one mediation session, which usually lasts between two hours and all day.

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What services does the USDA Alternative Dispute Program offer?

The program offers:

  • Consultation- providing advice or coaching on how to address a specific conflict;
  • Fact-Finding- an (impartial) expert that does not favor one person over the other completes a report that describes the issues, interest potential settlement options, and possible procedures to resolve a conflict;
  • Group Dynamic Problem Solving- use of a skilled facilitator to assist a team or group with resolving problems in a manner acceptable to all; and
  • Mediation- using a mediator (neutral third party) to help two or more parties in conflict reach a resolution that each finds acceptable. Unlike litigation, the mediator does not impose a decision upon the participants. Nothing is decided in mediation unless both parties agree to the terms.

How can I determine if my conflict or complaint is appropriate for USDA Alternative Dispute Resolution?

Any workplace conflict that you wish to resolve is appropriate for Alternative Dispute Resolution. This includes interpersonal disputes, Equal Employment Opportunity complaints, USDA employment issues relating to leave, performance evaluations, non-selection for a position, training, and reasonable accommodation.

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Who do I contact for information about Alternative Dispute Resolution at USDA?

Contact the Office of Early Resolution and Conciliation Division
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Room 4023-South Building
Washington, DC 20250
Telephone: 202-720-7664 or toll free at 1-888-428-8961

What should I expect when I contact the Office of Early Resolution and Conciliation Division about Alternative Dispute Resolution?

When you the contact the Office of Early Resolution and Conciliation Division a member of the staff will ask the nature of the dispute and will then help you determine whether the situation is suitable for Alternative Dispute Resolution. If you want help thinking through how to respond to or prevent a conflict, experienced conflict management specialists will provide free consultation. Generally, participation in mediation is voluntary for all parties. However, if you choose mediation, in most instances it will take place. Both parties to the conflict can choose to bring an attorney, union representative, or other personal representative to the session. A mutually acceptable date, location, and time will be arranged for the mediation. If the conflict involves more than two parties, such as in an office, division or team, we work with the employees and managers together: (1) to identify the issues of the group, and then (2) to assist in finding solutions that each person believes will resolve the issues.

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