This column typically focuses on the resolution of large commercial construction disputes. Mediation and arbitration are certainly well-suited processes for these disputes. However, the processes are also well suited for other disputes that organizations and individuals in the construction industry may encounter in other parts of their lives.

Mediation of Criminal Complaints

Modern alternative dispute resolution arguably owes its existence to the start of community mediation centers several decades ago. One of the early programs started in Columbus, Ohio, in 1970 as a collaborative effort between the prosecutor’s office and Capital University Law School and continues today. Criminal complaints referred to the program involve interpersonal relationships, such as family arguments, neighborhood fights, and landlord-tenant disputes where the parties must maintain close personal contact with each other after the dispute. The “office trial,” held in the evenings, is run by a mediator. During the “trial,” the parties attempt to resolve the dispute without resorting to the criminal justice system. The program has been very successful. According to the 2004 annual report of the City Attorney, of the 284 cases mediated that year, a settlement was reached in 226 cases.

Workplace disputes

Mediation programs are also used to resolve workplace conflict. One example is the Ohio Workplace Mediation Program. The program is open to any state employee. Once an employee requests mediation, a mediator from outside the employee’s agency is assigned. The mediator then contacts the parties to schedule the mediation session. As with other forms of mediation, the process is confidential.

The process does have some restrictions. Disputes over collective bargaining issues may not be referred to mediation. Additionally, referral to mediation does not affect an employee’s right to file a grievance.

While this is a government/union program, there are a number of private organizations that have implemented similar programs. UPS provides employees with the Employee Dispute Resolution Program.

Kodak’s program is known as the Resolution Support Services Program.

Workplace dispute resolution is not limited to large, international organizations. There are a number of private professionals available to assist even the smallest client with setting up and running an employee dispute resolution program.

Mediation for students

Dispute resolution programs are not limited to the workplace. Many schools, ranging from elementary through college level, have implemented student dispute resolution programs.

The University of Michigan, for instance, has established the Office of Student Conflict Resolution. The Office assists students in resolving violations of the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Among the options available to the students is mediation.

For schools in Ohio interested in establishing a dispute resolution program, help is available through the Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management (http://disputeresolution.ohio. gov). The Commission was established in 1989 to provide dispute resolution and conflict management resources, training, and direct services to Ohio schools, communities, courts, and state and local government. The Commission offers a wide range of training opportunities and resources to allow a school district or other public agency to set up a successful conflict resolution program.

Consumer Disputes

One of the largest providers of dispute resolution services for consumers is the Better Business Bureau. The BBB offers a wide range of dispute resolution services from informal discussions between the parties, to formal mediation, all the way to binding arbitration.

Access to the Better Business Bureau dispute online. For more information on the BBB services, see http://www.dr.bbb.org

Dispute resolution is not just for construction disputes. Owners, contractors, suppliers, and everyone else involved in a construction project may be subject to some form of dispute resolution process away from the project site. Like the dispute resolution process utilized to resolve construction disputes, processes short of litigation can successfully resolve a wide variety of non-construction disputes. resolution process is as close as your keyboard. A request can start by filing a complaint