“I’ve Never Heard of these Guys!”
In Response To This Familiar Refrain, A New Resource Is Available To Assist Advocates To Learn More About Labor And Employment Arbitrators And Workplace Mediators – The Advanced Practitioner Designation
A common concern for labor and employment advocates is: how do you learn the background of the mediators and arbitrators who have been assigned to, or proposed for, your case. Is this a common dilemma for you? You open the mail from the American Arbitration Association, the FMCS, or other agency or court that provides the name of, or panels of, labor and employment arbitrators or mediators and you don’t recognize the name of the neutral assigned or don’t recognize most or all of the names provided on the panel! You think, “I’ve never heard of these guys!” What do you do?
If you are in the position of being responsible for choosing a labor arbitrator, your first step is most likely a visit to the roster of the National Academy of Arbitrators (NAA). If the arbitrator is listed as a member of the NAA, you can be assured that he or she has authored at least fifty (50) written grievance arbitration awards over a five (5) year period. A review of his or her bio would reveal more details on the nature of their experience. You might also call around the office, or to colleagues, to see if you can learn more. A search might reveal if any of them have published an arbitration decision, or access to a specialized service may provide statistics or a summary of awards, although it seems that relatively few such awards are published. These sources will probably give you information on the more established neutral. They probably won’t tell you much about the work of the neutral who has recently entered the ADR field, his or her experience or training level, or whether the neutral has made a serious commitment to the ADR profession. Researching the background of mediators is even more limited as mediators don’t decide cases and therefore do not issue published decisions.
The Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) is building a verifiable resource to help you. ACR recently launched the “Advanced Practitioner” membership designation for Labor and Employment Arbitrators and a separate “Advanced Practitioner” membership designation for Workplace Mediators. The objective is to offer to the advocate the comfort of knowing that the Advanced Practitioner is of reputable, professional standing and is well qualified, having met a significant level of objective criteria to attain the designation.
The Advanced Practitioner designation application process is open to qualified labor arbitrators, employment arbitrators, workplace mediators and those with mixed practices. A specified number and mix of cases is required for application as well as continuing education and service to the ADR profession. The Advanced Practitioner designation for Workplace Mediators application also requires references. ACR and Workplace Section membership are required, but available during the application process. See accompanying tables for additional detail on the requirements for each designation. The standards of membership and the application form are available at the ACR ( website. ACR has established a searchable database of those who have attained the Advanced Practitioner designation. This service is free to the public and the communities it serves, located at
The ACR Workplace Mediator Designation requirements include:
- Experience – lead or solo mediator in a minimum of twenty (20) workplace/employment disputes, and a minimum of eighty (80) hours mediating workplace/employment disputes as lead or solo mediator;
- Education and Training – twenty-four (24) of relevant education and training beyond the initial forty (40) hour initial basic mediation training. Education and training must be drawn from subjects in three core areas of substantive knowledge, knowledge of the process, and application of skills and knowledge;
- Volunteer Service – Minimum of fifteen (15) hours of volunteer service to the ADR field;
- References – letters of reference from two (2) colleagues, two consumers and one mediator for whom the applicant has been a mentor;
- Ethics – Commitment to ACR Standards of Ethics;
- Insurance – Evidence of liability insurance covering the provision of mediation services or sufficient explanation as to why it is not required;
The ACR Workplace Mediator Designation is renewable every three (3) years.
The ACE Workplace Labor and Employment Designation requirements include:
- Experience – A minimum of thirty-five (35) countable cases as an arbitrator or Hearing Officer in labor and/or employment matters. Countable cases include final and binding awards, expedited awards, advisory awards, AAA/FMCS/PERB/Civil Service/NASD/private panel hearings, and selections as an arbitrator that settled or otherwise did not go to hearing. Countable cases include either labor or employment arbitration cases, or either category of cases in any combination.
- Written Awards - Twenty-five (25) of countable cases must be written awards. No more than ten (10 of those written awards can be from the same parties;
- Verification - Submission of proof for all countable cases requires a) appointment letters or b) first/last pages of awards;
- Volunteer Service – Minimum of twenty-four (24) hours of volunteer service to the ADR field;
The ACR Workplace Labor and Employment Arbitrator Advanced Practitioner designation is renewable every five (5) years.
For more information on the Advanced Practitioner in Labor and Employment Arbitration or the Advanced Practitioner in Workplace Mediation, please visit the ACR Workplace website (or click or contact the Association for Conflict Resolution, 1015 18th Street, NW, Suite 1150, Washington, DC 20036, Phone: 302-528-4036.
Mike McDowell is a full time arbitrator and a mediator from Pittsburgh, PA. He is Co-Chair of the Workplace Section of the Association for Conflict Resolution, and has been awarded the designations of both Labor and Employment Arbitrator Advanced Practitioner and Workplace Mediator Advanced Practitioner. He can be reached at . Mr. McDowell grants permission for practitioners to publish this article in other appropriate/relevant magazines or publications.