U.S. Department of Agriculture, Early Resolution and Conciliation Division

Semester: 2015 Spring

Students: Deanna Parrish, Elizabeth Bramon, and Zhiliang Zhang

The Early Resolution and Conciliation Division (ERCD), a division under the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR), is one of the Headquarters’ organizations at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The OASCR’s mission is to provide leadership and direction for the fair and equitable treatment of all USDA customers and employees while ensuring the delivery of quality programs and enforcement of civil rights.  The ERCD provides policy guidance to USDA alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program  managers and monitors agencies’ compliance with USDA’s policy on the use of ADR.

Ensuring compliance throughout all 17 ADR programs, as well as providing ADR services to the 17 ADR functions, presents challenges around data integrity, reporting, training, and implementation of ADR.  Historically, all 17 USDA agencies and staff offices have operated with significant autonomy, and this remains true for the civil rights and ADR programs contained in each of the agencies.

HNMCP students will examine what conflicts employees bring to each of the 17 agencies and how these conflicts are currently managed, determine each agency’s ADR services, identify the uniqueness of each program, and determine how to produce the most effective ADR program services–such as mediation, consultation, and training–for delivery to USDA internal personnel and applicants for employment. A streamlined approach may be necessary, however, thorough evaluation may dictate the best approach for the ADR programs is to streamline, consolidate, or remain independent.

Activities and Deliverables:

  • HNMCP students will canvas and inventory services in all 17 USDA agencies;
  • Interview Civil Rights directors and ADR program managers and provide a systems assessment; and
  • Provide a report recommending any changes that may improve internal ADR services across programs.
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