Towards an understanding of the role of anticipatory justice in the employment dispute-resolution process: An investigation of EEOC-sponsored mediation

Barry Goldman, Debra L. Shapiro, Matthew Pearsall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Purpose – The paper aims to investigate why organizations often opt to reject Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)-sponsored mediation of employment disputes (in contrast to employees who tend to readily agree to it). It is guided by recent research associated with Shapiro and Kirkman’s (1999, 2001) theory of “anticipatory justice”, whereby (in)justice is anticipated, or expected, when people think about an event they have not yet experienced whose likely fairness they are questioning. In contrast, “organizational justice” reflects people’s retrospective assessments of how fair they have been treated to date. Design/methodology/approach – The paper relied upon data made available by the mediation program administered by the US EEOC. The EEOC provided the names and contact information for the officially designated EEOC contacts for each dispute. The authors distributed surveys to each of these organizational representatives and received completed surveys from 492 organizations (a response rate of 85.8 per cent). Findings – The authors tested the extent to which organizational representatives’ decision to accept or reject mediation as a means of settling discrimination claims is influenced by representatives’ expectation of more versus less fair treatments – by the opposing party as well as by the third-party mediator – during the mediation procedure. The pattern of findings in the study support all hypotheses and, thus, also the expectation-oriented theories that have guided them. Research limitations/implications – The study relies on self-reports. However, this concern is somewhat lessened because of the salience and recency of events to the time of surveying. Practical implications – The paper provides new insights on the need for organizations to implement rules, policies and procedures to constrain decision-maker choices consistent with organizational goals. The authors offer specific procedural proposals to reduce this organizational tendency to reject mediation. Social implications – Employee grievances are costly to organizations in terms of finances, reputation and to the emotional climate of the organization. Moreover, it is similarly costly to employees. This study provides new insights to better understand why employees (as opposed to organizations) are almost three times more likely to elect mediation of employment disputes. As such, it offers some promising ideas to narrow that gap. Originality/value – The paper investigates a little-studied phenomenon – the differential participation rate of employees versus organizations in EEOC-sponsored mediation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-298
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Conflict Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016


  • Anticipatory justice
  • Discrimination
  • EEOC
  • Litigation
  • Mediation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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