Employee Grievances: Are Most Legal Disputes Resolved in Litigation or Arbitration?

Most legal disputes are resolved in the courtroom, or somewhere else? The answer may surprise you.

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employee grievances most legal disputes are resolved in litigation or arbitration

A common question asked is, “If most legal disputes are resolved in litigation, is there room for arbitration or mediation?”

In 2000, Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), seeing the surge in employee grievances and litigation in other companies, implemented a revolutionary dispute system they called SOLUTIONS to deal with its own internal disputes.

Dispute Systems Design, or DSD, is the process of identifying, creating, implementing, and evaluating an effective means of resolving conflicts within an organization.

CCE’s program consists of four parts and often begins with the TALK stage in which disputants are encouraged to negotiate their differences. For example, employees may first have a discussion with their supervisor regarding being denied a promotion.


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If that is unsuccessful, the dispute moves to the SUPPORT stage which includes the involvement of a third party mediator from within CCE. This may entail an employee speaking to their HR representative about internal hiring practices.

If the employee is still dissatisfied, the discussion is moved to the MEDIATION stage in which a company employee trained in mediation becomes involved. The mediator meets with the disputants and attempts to come up with a mutually agreeable solution for both parties.

If the dispute involves a legal claim, such as discrimination or sexual harassment, the dispute can rise to the level of company-funded external alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or arbitration.

CCE has devoted significant dispute resolution resources to encourage employees to participate in the SOLUTIONS program as it is the mandated grievance process for the company. This program also involves extensive conflict management and conflict resolution training for interested participants. It should also be noted that frequently major corporations are now requiring their employees to waive their right to litigation and instituting policies similar to CCE.

Workplace conflict is unavoidable. Armed with the knowledge that most legal disputes are resolved outside the courthouse, CCE has demonstrated that there are strong possibilities for future development of organizational dispute systems which can be used to successfully resolve employee conflict.

Related Dispute Resolution Article:  Teambuilding Negotiating Skills and Negotiation Tactics Using Negotiation Examples: The Hostage Negotiator’s Drill


Discover how to improve your dispute resolution skills in this free report, Dispute Resolution, Working Together Toward Conflict Resolution on the Job and at Home, from Harvard Law School.


Originally published in 2008.

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