It's not as if Atlanta Legal Copies were a hotbed of employee lawsuits. It's not. But considering the prevailing litigious climate, the management isn't taking chances. The Atlanta-based provider of facilities-management services is developing its own alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program, which aims to handle employee conflicts before they escalate into costly court cases. (See "Staying Out of Court," at right.) Human-resources vice-president Joe Carroll developed the company's three-pronged approach to ADR.
Â· Open-door policy. "If someone has a problem with a manager, he or she is automatically entitled to take that concern to the next level," Carroll says. "We guarantee confidentiality, and employees have the option of going as far up the corporate ladder as company president Mark Hawn."
Â· Human-resources hot line. The company will provide a special human-resources hot line for employees who want to voice any complaints or simply have company policy clarified.
Â· Binding arbitration. "If all else fails," says Carroll, "we'll take the dispute to formal binding arbitration." The American Arbitration Association will provide a neutral third-party arbitrator, who will listen to all parties before delivering a binding decision. That means that neither the company nor the employee may seek damages in the future.
All new employees will be required to sign a document agreeing to compulsory binding arbitration. Current employees -- there are 1,600 in 21 states -- aren't compelled to sign, though they are strongly encouraged to do so. "It's like any other human-resources practice," says Carroll. "It all depends on how you roll it out. You have to market it and get employees to buy into it." He plans to send out brochures, hold group meetings, and stress the potential benefit to employees.