A mediation is different than an arbitration.  During the time that your complaint is pending with the EEOC, the agency may ask both sides to enter into a mediation.  Or, after suit has been filed, the parties can agree to enter into a mediation or the court may order it.  A mediation is basically a settlement conference in which the parties meet with a mediator, who tries to help the parties settle the dispute.  The mediator does not make a decision about who wins or loses as an arbitrator does in an arbitration.  The entire process is confidential and nothing said in the mediation can be used in the dispute.  In other words, if one side made an offer of settlement and the matter still did not settle, no one could later tell the judge or anyone else that an offer of a certain amount was made, nor could statements made in the mediation be used in a later trial, unless the matters could be proved other than by the statements made in the mediation.  In the mediation, the mediator would separate the parties and go back and forth between them discussing the positives and negatives of the claim, as well as delivering settlement offers back and forth.  Neither side is forced to settle and all that is required is a good faith effort to arrive at a solution.  A skilled mediator will try to bring a party face to face with the case as a jury might see it in order to bring some “reality thinking” about the case as to what might happen in a trial.  This is helpful because many times a litigant has never really faced the objective facts about the problems with the case from their side.  I have found that every case has it’s “warts” or difficulties which need to be carefully and objectively examined in the cold light of day.  This is what a mediator is supposed to do and a lot of the times it gets a case settled.  Also, sometimes a litigant just needs to talk with an objective third party to “have their say” and this helps to get the matter settled without the trauma of a trial.  If the parties arrive at a settlement, then the settlement is completed and the matter is over.  However, there are just certain disputes that are going to have to be tried and a mediation is not appropriate because both sides positions are set in stone and only a judge or jury is going to change their minds.  This is why we have the trial system.  However, because of the mediation process  a large percentage of cases are settled and never make it to trial.