Dispute resolution helps solve problems at the lowest level

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- People are encouraged to resolve a dispute at the lowest level possible. 

That's what the Equal Employment Opportunity office strives to do with any issue brought to the office, said Sherry Murray-Garrett, EEO chief. She said alternate dispute resolution is one way disagreements can be settled without venturing into what may be a long, drawn out process of a formal complaint. 

"Most of the time, if we can get the parties to sit down and talk, they will settle," she said. "Not every dispute is right for ADR, but most EEO complaints are." 

Over the last fiscal year, Sheppard's EEO office has had more than 150 contacts, and only six turned into complaints. Of those six, four were resolved by the use of ADR before any official hearings took place. 

According to the Air Force's ADR Web site, "ADR is an alternative means to resolving an EEO complaint without resorting to a lengthy and often expensive administrative process of investigation, hearing and appeal to the EEOC, or possible litigation in the courts." 

Ms. Murray-Garrett said ADR is a beneficial option because it allows involved parties to mutually determine the outcome of their own dispute, seeks to satisfy interests instead of argue positions and is completely confidential. 

In addition, with ADR, resolution comes quicker than with the formal complaint process and it is more flexible for both parties and promotes creative problem-solving techniques instead of adversarial positions. 

Even though it is best to use the ADR process early, Ms. Murray-Garrett said, ADR can be used even after the formal process has began.
After a complaint is filed the EEO office will contact the commander or supervisor to see if ADR is an option. 

"We want to settle all of our EEO cases, or contacts, at the lowest level. We try to give the parties a chance to resolve the dispute first," Ms. Murray-Garrett said. 

For more information about ADR, visit www.adr.af.mil or call Sheppard's EEO office at 676-4393.