Labor Relations Negotiation Role-Play:

Axis Affair

Anita Ramasastry and Erin Monaghan
Two-party negotiation between attorneys for a male executive and a recently terminated female employee regarding allegations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination

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Free review copies of non-English Teacher’s Packages will be emailed upon request. Please contact tnrc@law.harvard.edu  or telephone 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 781-966-2751 (outside the U.S.)

SCENARIO:

Version A: Axis Electronics is a huge Silicon Valley-based computer firm with its Microcomputer Development division of sixty employees located just outside Boston. Richard Van Heusen, Executive Vice President of Microcomputer Development, hired Denise Webster, a life-long New Englander with high academic credentials in microcomputers, to work as a manager in the division; she is the first female manager in that division, and the only professional woman with whom Richard has dealt in twenty years of business. An extremely challenging work assignment (solo development of a mouse/drawing pad prototype), followed by a series of social advances by Richard, leads Denise to work at home and miss work without explanation. Richard, stating that the project is in jeopardy and that Denise is not committed to Axis, demotes her from her position as project head and gives her notice of termination. Denise’s attorney meets with Axis’ in-house counsel to discuss the situation and attempt to resolve it before commencing any formal legal activity. Neither party knows much about the other’s interest. Resolution of the situation is possible without litigation; while there are salary and profit figures to be handled, and agreement should not occur unless the specific problems of possible sexual harassment and gender discrimination between Richard and Denise are discussed and settled, and a company policy and grievance process for future situations is discussed as well.

 

Version B: Same as Version A, except that Axis Electronics is a 500-employee computer firm located in Massachusetts; Denise is not specified to be a lifelong New Englander, and has experience with personal computers as well as microcomputers. In this version, it may be possible to gloss over the current situation, but it will not be possible to reach an agreement which involves rehiring Denise but does not set up a company policy and grievance process for handling future situations involving possible sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

 

MECHANICS:

The exercise works best with one attorney per side. The parties’ instructions require 20-30 minutes to read and analyze. Negotiation can take 40-50 minutes; review can last anywhere from 40-90 minutes.

 

TEACHING MATERIALS (Both Versions):

For all parties:

  • Review Questionnaire

 

Role Specific:

  • Axis Electronics Attorney
  • Denise Webster’s Attorney

 

Teacher’s Package (26 pages total):

  • All of the above material
  • Teaching Note
  • List of Suggested Readings

 

MAJOR LESSONS:

  • The partisan perceptions on each side can contribute to difficulty in understanding the other party’s “take” on the situation and its causes. Attempts to educate can take place at two levels: educating the other negotiator, and educating the client. Participants can discuss how partisan perceptions affected their acceptance of differing interpretations of the case at hand, and the methods they used to try to educate their negotiating partner. The group can discuss possible ways to educate clients, in the initial interviews and in the post-negotiation discussion and presentation of an agreement for approval (this will be helpful for the client memos each side is required to write after the exercise and review).
  • Fairness and power imbalance questions are triggered by the issues of sexual harassment and gender discrimination present in the exercise. These two problems can be specifically addressed, or they can be broadened to serve as a base of discussion of difference issues in negotiating. Participants can explore the possibilities of miscommunication, societal causes, how the presence of a possible stereotype or difference affects negotiating strategy, and how to balance a desire for social change with the client’s interests in this case.

 

SIMILAR SIMULATIONS:

 

PROCESS THEMES:

Attorney/Client relations; BATNA; Disclosure; Issues of difference; Fairness; Interests, dovetailing; Interests, internal ordering; Lawyering; Objective criteria; Partisan perceptions; Power imbalance

 

Axis Affair Attributes

Time required:
1-2 hours
Number of participants:
2
Teams involved:
No
Agent present:
Lawyer
Neutral third party present:
None
Scoreable:
No
Teaching notes available:
Yes
Non-English version available:
Greek
PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

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Soft copy vs. hard copy

You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You are then permitted to view the document on your computer and either print the number of copies you purchased, or forward the electronic file as many times as the number of copies you purchased. You will only receive a link to one electronic file per document. So, if you order 25 soft copies, you may either forward copies of the link to 25 people via e-mail, or print (and/or photocopy) 25 hard copies of the document.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

The purchase price and handling fee are the same for both soft and hard copies. Soft copies do not entail a shipping fee.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 781-966-2751 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 781-966-2751 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, then you should order a single Teacher’s Package for that role simulation. A PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package is also available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. There is no need to order participant materials as well as a Teacher’s Package, as all Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters. Please note that the materials in Teacher’s Packages are for the instructor’s review and reference only, and may not be duplicated for use with participants.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

If you wish to order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Participant Copies.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required; the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Participant Copies.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.