Dispute Resolution


The Seattle Federal Executive Board (SFEB) Dispute Resolution Consortium (DRC) is an intergovernmental pool of certified mediators from approximately 20 different Federal agencies in Western Washington, the State of Washington, the City of Seattle, and the Port of Seattle. It is a “Shared Neutrals” program that was created in 1993. In Shared Neutrals programs, public agencies receive mediation services at no charge in exchange for providing support, typically in the form of trained mediators. We were the first Federal Executive Board (FEB) DRC in the country and, partly due to our success, nearly every FEB in the country now has a DRC.

The SFEB DRC is a past recipient of the National Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director’s Award for Outstanding ADR Programs. The average grade of our mediator cadre is GS-13.5. Twenty-five percent of our mediators are attorneys. Of the approximately 80 mediators on our roster, a majority hold advanced degrees, Masters or higher. We are also a diverse group in terms of ethnicity, cultures, languages, and bargaining unit/non-bargaining unit status, and we try, as much as possible, to match our mediators to the parties.

Our mediators have an advanced level of skill, which is developed through an extensive training program that takes approximately two years to complete. The mediators are certified through a nationally recognized certification process – the same process used by outside, contract mediators.

Many mediators in the SFEB DRC are also certified by the Washington Mediation Association (WMA). The WMA requires completion of a 40-hour Basic Mediation Training, plus a minimum of 200 hours of mediation experience. This is one of the most rigorous mediator certification programs in the country.

The SFEB DRC mediators help resolve workplace conflicts in Federal government agencies in the Seattle area. They handle cases involving work style differences and personality disputes to those involving possible harassment, discrimination, or unfair treatment. Parties in SFEB DRC mediations include supervisor/employee, employee/employee, supervisor/supervisor, or group combinations. The SFEB DRC also provides conflict resolution training, facilitation, and conflict coaching services.

In the past three program years, the SFEB DRC has been involved in over 500 workplace dispute interventions, and settled an average of approximately 83 percent of the cases it has mediated, making it one of the highest performing Dispute Resolution Programs in the Federal Government. This work has resulted in an estimated savings to public service agencies of over 15 million dollars, based upon savings estimates from the Office of Personnel Management for the mediation of workplace, informal EEO, and formal EEO cases.

The mediation model used by the SFEB DRC is a powerful, sophisticated tool, which is actually very structured, although it appears informal to the parties. It is especially effective with serious emotional disputes between parties who need to have a continuing relationship; however, the process is appropriate for all types of personnel disputes. It is also well suited for EEO complaints, conflicts regarding substantive topics, and system/structural issues.

Use of mediators from agencies other than the disputant’s home agency ensures the perception and attainment of neutrality and confidentiality. It minimizes perceived biases or conflicts of interests, perceived or actual, regarding in-house mediators. An inter-governmental pool also ensures that the expertise of our mediators is current. In this regard, we provide continuing education programs on cutting-edge issues in the dispute resolution field. We also help to develop mediators who are attempting to earn mediation certification via enrollment in a dispute resolution practicum.

The bottom line is that we offer high quality mediation at no cost to public sector entities (other than transportation and per diem, if applicable) - the same services for which an outside mediator might charge hundreds of dollars per day.

Please do not hesitate to contact Brett Eckelberg, SFEB DRC Program Manager, at (206) 615-3748, if you have any questions, or would like to discuss whether dispute resolution would be appropriate for your situation. You may also e-mail him at sfeb.adr@ssa.gov. And please click on the hyperlink below to access the SFEB DRC application for mediation services.