The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has unveiled two six-month pilot programs designed to encourage companies to voluntarily comply with regulations.

The pilot programs will focus on mediation and conciliation, two processes that allow employers to resolve charges before they head to litigation.

The programs reflect the new EEOC chair’s agenda that stresses cooperation over enforcement.

EEOC’s ACT (access, categories, time) Mediation pilot started July 6 and expands the categories of charges eligible for mediation and, in general, allows mediation to take place throughout an investigation.

Mediation, implemented across the agency in 1999, is a voluntary, informal way to confidentially resolve disputes with a trained mediator who helps both sides discuss their differences.

Currently, only certain categories of charges are referred to the ACT program when an EEOC investigation begins.

Addressing Complaints

The pilot will also expand the use of technology to hold virtual mediations, the EEOC said.

Conciliation is an informal, confidential process required under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to try to resolve discrimination complaints before litigation.

The EEOC’s Conciliation pilot began May 29 and makes a single change to the process that the agency said will drive accountability.

It’s also “part of our broader effort to emphasize the importance of conciliation as a tool for remedying complaints of discrimination,” the EEOC said in a release.

The program recommits the agency to conciliation, which it describes as “one of the most effective means of bringing employers into compliance.”

Avoiding Litigation

The pilot also renews the EEOC’s commitment to full communication and requires agency management to approve conciliation offers before they're  shared with respondents.

The goals are to drive greater internal accountability and improve how the EEOC implements existing practices.

“EEOC’s popular mediation program has been tremendously successful over its 20-year history and the ACT Mediation pilot creates more opportunities to resolve charges throughout an investigation,” Dhillon said.

“Similarly, the change being piloted in the conciliation process ensures internal accountability and emphasizes resolving charges before resorting to litigation.”

Since 1999, the EEOC has conducted more than 235,000 mediations, resolving over 170,000 cases and securing over $2.85 billion in benefits for aggrieved individuals—all within an average of 100 days.

In addition, the EEOC said its surveys show that 96% of employers and workers who participated in the mediation process would do it again.