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Program Alternative Dispute Resolution Program (PADR)

  • PADR is a OASCR Pilot program that is being used to assist customers and agencies within USDA in their efforts to resolve their program discrimination complaints.
  • All accepted program discrimination complaints are evaluated by the Early Resolution and Conciliation Division (ERCD) for potential resolution utilizing Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process of assisted negotiation aimed at resolving conflicts.
  • The ADR techniques used at USDA include mediation, consultation, fact-finding, and group dynamic problem solving to help customers and employees at all levels of the organization address and/or resolve disputes.
  • The primary PADR technique that will be used will be conciliation and mediation.  Participation in PADR may allow for efficient resolution of the complaint prior to an investigation.
  • The complainant will be contacted by the Agency or ERCD.
  • Both the complainant and Agency must be voluntary and active participants for the process to be beneficial.
  • PADR allows parties to control their own dispute resolution process, by giving the parties the opportunity to discuss the issues, clear up misunderstandings, determine the parties' underlying interests or concerns, find area of agreement, and ultimately, to incorporate those area of agreement into resolutions, rather than having formal, procedural guidelines control it for them.
  • PADR is guided by a trained subject matter expert and/or a certified neutral third party mediator/facilitator.
  • PADR may take from two hours to a full day.  Mediation may be conducted in person or by teleconference.  In rare cases, follow-up sessions may be required, depending on the issues and parties involved.  Mediation begins by introducing the parties.  Then the mediator/facilitator gives an opening statement.  In the opening statement, the mediator/facilitator stress, neutrality, fairness and the importance of open discussion.  The mediator/facilitator will not make any decisions.  The mediator/facilitator is simply there to assist the parties in resolving the issues.  Following the introductions, each participant is given an opportunity to state the issues in his or her own words and explain the personal impact.  Generally, the party who asked for the mediation will make his or her remarks first.  
  • The mediator/facilitator does not determine the resolution for the parties, but rather, helps the parties to agree to their own mutually acceptable resolution of the conflict.  By agreeing to mediate, you so not give up your right for your complaint to be investigated.
  • If the parties both agree in a resolution, the agreement is put into writing and each party signs.  The written agreement is then binding upon the parties.

If mediation does not result in a mutual agreement, your complaint is forwarded to investigations, and the Agency is required to submit an Agency Position Statement (APS) to the Program Investigations Division, Office of Adjudication with 24 calendar days.  PADR efforts can be revived at any point during an investigation.