Negotiating settlements for labor complaints


Last week, I was pleased to have facilitated a settlement involving a labor dispute between a top executive and a business owner. I say facilitate because that is the true role of a negotiator, even if I represented the latter. It is really the parties who come to a settlement. All other actors simply open and maintain lines of communication.

The story is similar to rock bands who started out well with their good chemistry. They make great hits and build a sizable following. Fans adore them and would pay the admission tickets to hear them play. (In business terms, simply substitute rock bands for pioneers, great hits for services, following/fans for customers, and admission tickets for price for services.)

Unfortunately, behind the curtains, trouble slowly brews. It starts with little disagreements which have been left unchecked over time resulting in rifts between the members of the band. Then, there comes the day when one has finally had enough – and walked away.

A falling out happens.

This narration is oddly similar to business owners and their pioneers (or those who helped set-up the business in some form or another). Depending on how the business was organized, the legal trouble could range from labor complaints, civil actions, and even to criminal cases. This case has the potential to make the trifecta.

At the outset, I listened and tried to get a good sense of the background of the case. There is what is being told you, what is not being said, and what you can deduce or infer from the two. I have had may fair share of negotiations over the years. My training has taught to me to figure these things out, fast. As with any negotiator will tell you, it is important to know these things before sitting down on the negotiation table. You do not want to be unprepared when negotiation starts. (The analogy is that negotiations is similar to flying a plane. Once you are in the air, hope you did not forget something important down back on the ground.)

First contact with the other side is crucial.

It sets the tone of the discussions. I was glad that the executive was amiable to me. After a few exchanges, I was directed to a handling lawyer who I would be negotiating with moving forward. (The legal profession has rules and one of them requires a lawyer to only talk to the other party’s legal counsel if there is one.)

I reached out to the other lawyer. (To be continued…)