Legally binding mediation agreements are usually difficult to change after they have been signed. However, it is possible to request a change in the agreement if one of the parties committed an act of fraud in the mediation process. Reasons for invalidating a mediation agreement include signing under duress, being deceived, or being lied to about assets or other important factors. These are complicated issues that require going to trial and proving your case before the judge.
Once an agreement is filed with the court, it is almost always final and enforceable by either party. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) offered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as an alternative to traditional investigation and litigation processes. It is a voluntary process in which a trained mediator helps the parties reach a negotiated resolution of an allegation of discrimination. The mediator does not decide who is right or wrong and has no authority to impose an agreement on the parties. The EEOC has a team of trained mediators and also hires professional external mediators to mediate charges filed with the EEOC. All EEOC mediators are neutral and impartial professionals who have no interest in the outcome of the mediation process.
The EEOC has expanded the charges for which mediation can be eligible and it is now available in the conciliation phase, after a judgment of discrimination has been handed down, in appropriate cases. In order to ensure confidentiality, the mediation program is isolated from the EEOC's investigation and litigation functions. While it is not necessary to have an attorney or other representative to participate in the EEOC mediation program, either party may choose to do so. The mediator will decide what role the lawyer or representative will play during mediation. The EEOC evaluates each charge to determine if it is appropriate for mediation, taking into account factors such as the nature of the case, the relationship between the parties, the size and complexity of the case, and the relief sought by the prosecuting party. Charges determined by the EEOC to be baseless are not eligible for mediation. If a charge is not resolved during the mediation process, it is returned to an investigation unit and processed like any other charge.
Mediation has no cost and information revealed during mediation cannot be disclosed to anyone, not even other EEOC staff. In almost half of the cases that are mediated, the agreement involves a non-monetary benefit. Offering mediation to the parties before starting an investigation saves resources by preventing an accusation from being investigated that could be properly resolved through mediation.