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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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The Commissioner's Policy Statement for Conflict Prevention and Resolution Program


January 8, 2010

FROM: Commissioner of Food and Drugs

SUBJECT: Policy Statement for Conflict Prevention and Resolution Program

TO: All FDA Employees 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is committed to early resolution ofworkplace conflict because it supports our efforts to maintain a harmonious work environment. Early resolution allows involved parties to put the dispute behind them and to direct their attention to the work and mission of the agency. The FDA's Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR) program was created as an alternative to the existing formal grievance and EEO complaint processes for addressing work-related issues. The CPR staff is committed to providing an impartial, confidential way to resolve workplace disputes in order to prevent escalation to formal EEO and grievance processes. CPR Specialists help employees candidly discuss issues and explore options. They work to assist the parties in achieving fair and equitable solutions, which may include referrals to other available resources.

Full-time CPR Specialists are available to assist FDA employees with:

  • Consultation - informal, confidential meetings to discuss, brainstorm or make decisions about a workplace issue that is creating a problem.
  • Conflict Coaching - a one-on-one voluntary, confidential and individualized method for helping people effectively manage in conflict. Individuals seeking conflict coaching may be looking for ways to prevent a dispute from escalating unnecessarily, to improve their competency in conflict management, to strengthen communication skills for difficult conversations and other objectives that are often more about managing conflict than resolving it. 
  • Facilitation - informal, one-on-one or group problem solving characterized by structured dialogue to help employees or groups improve communication, clarify expectations and resolve workplace problems.
  • Mediation - intervention in a dispute by a neutral third party to improve communication and assist employees in reaching their own voluntary agreement for the resolution of the dispute or issues in the dispute. The mediator does not make decisions or act as an advocate for either party;
  • Team Building - includes team assessments and recommendations on how to build a functioning, cohesive team.
  • Training and Presentations - information and education on conflict prevention and management tailored to the needs of your staff.

The CPR Specialists are trained as mediators and in all statutory regulations for filing formal grievances (negotiated and administrative), EEO complaints, and appeals to the Merit Systems Protection Board. In addition, the CPR Staff may utilize trained FDA collateral duty mediators and mediators from the Federal Sharing Neutrals Program.

All mandated timeframes are strictly observed and will continue to run while you work with a CPR Specialist. For example, a union grievance must be filed within 30 days of the alleged incident and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations require that an employee contact an EEO counselor within 45 days ofthe alleged discriminatory incident.

FDA policy of resolving workplace conflict is consistent with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which urges all Federal agencies to attempt resolution of complaints of discrimination at the earliest possible stage. FDA policy further requires management to participate in mediation if an employee elects the ADR option at any stage of the EEO process (pre-complaint or formal). Both parties are entitled to representation during the mediation session. Additionally, any employee or manager can seek assistance through the CPR Office to address workplace issues before engaging the EEO process.

Maintaining a harmonious and productive workplace is an integral part of building a strong FDA and is essential to accomplishing FDA's mission of promoting and protecting your health.

This memorandum supersedes the memorandum to all FDA employees from the Acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs dated November 30, 2006.


Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.