Tuesday, July 23, 2019

NASA Resolves Whistleblower Case Using ADR

Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADRs) are any method of resolving disputes without litigation. When negotiations fail, ADR kicks in. Arbitration and mediation are two major forms of ADR but within these broad categories, there are many methods and techniques available for the disputing parties. Mediators are individuals trained in negotiations, who bring opposing parties together and attempt to work out a settlement or agreement that both parties accept or reject. Mediation is not binding. Arbitration is more formal than mediation and resembles a trial with limited discovery and simplified rules of evidence. The results of arbitration is usually binding.

The NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) OIG (Office of Inspector General) recently announced the results of whistleblower case where it acted as an ADR mediator. This happened down in Houston and involved a NASA contractor and one of its employees (the OIG report did not disclose the contractor name).

The whistleblower initiated his case after managers at the NASA contractor him for 'allegedly' texting threatening messages to a fellow employee. The whistleblower claimed the contractor's explanation for the termination was pretext and that he was really terminated because he disclosed issues to NASA constituting "... a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety" related to the space program. Because of the threatening texts, NASA also permanently suspended the whistleblower's access to Agency facilities.

The NASA-OIG became involved and determined that the whistleblower's potential damages were limited since contract he was working on was near its end. The NASA-OIG suggestion that the contractor and the former employee engage in ADR with the NASA-OIG acting as the mediator. Both parties agreed. As a result of the ADR process, the contractor and the whistleblower reached a settlement agreement satisfactory to both parties. The whistleblower, presumably, got a little money and withdrew his whistleblower accusation.

If you have not used ADR to resolve disputes, you should consider doing so before expending significant resources to litigate the matter.

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