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Mary Elcano is general counsel and corporate secretary of the American Red Cross. Tell us a bit about the mission of the American Red Cross, and the size and scope of the organization. The American Red Cross, chartered by Congress in 1905, is a nonprofit corporation with $2.7 billion in revenues, 35,000 employees, and over 1.2 million volunteers active in 896 chapters and 36 blood services regions throughout the United States. As one of the leading humanitarian organizations, the American Red Cross is committed to helping people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. Working with federal, state, and local governments, the Red Cross responds to over 67,000 disasters annually, providing food, shelter, and clothing at no charge to the public and businesses domestically and internationally. These disasters range from single-family fires to multi-state hurricanes like Isabel to the California wildfires that raged for days. The Red Cross Together We Prepare campaign, launched in early 2003, focuses on enhancing America’s readiness for disasters, whether natural, man-made, or terrorist-related. In Together We Prepare, America’s families, schools, and businesses are encouraged to make a plan, build a kit, get trained, volunteer, and give blood. Accounting for about 45 percent of the nation’s blood supply, the Red Cross is also committed to ensuring a safe blood supply and being in compliance with FDA regulatory requirements. What’s your background? How did you come to this job? Aside from a short time as a partner in a law firm, my legal career has been in public service. After law school, in the mid-1970s I worked for the Baltimore Legal Aid Bureau in family law and civil rights cases. I then moved to the federal government, where I represented the U.S. Department of Labor challenging illegalities in union officer elections and union governance corruption cases. From there, I went to the U.S. Postal Service in 1982, where I spent the next 18 years of my career. Starting as a trial and appellate attorney in labor and employment law matters, I next moved to the “client” side and became a manager in various positions in human resources. I was the executive director of equal employment opportunity for the Postal Service and later the Northeast regional manager of human resources, responsible for all areas of human resources from recruitment, compensation, EEO, labor relations, safety, OSHA, for New York, New England, New Jersey, and the Caribbean. After eight years in human resources, I returned to the practice of law in 1992 as the general counsel for the Postal Service, where I remained for eight years. In addition, I was made executive vice president of human resources. I left the U.S. Postal Service in 2000. From 2000 to 2003, I was a partner at Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, where I advised corporations and associations on matters related to the postal business and postal legislative reform. In addition, I advised clients in employment law and counseled both corporations and government agencies in designing alternative dispute resolution (ADR) programs, like the REDRESS program (discussed below). When a headhunter contacted me about the American Red Cross, I was intrigued. After interviewing with Marty Evans, the president and CEO, her top executives, and David McLaughlin, the chairman of the board, I knew that I wanted to work with them at the Red Cross. My background had provided me with uniquely relevant experience. For example, the Postal Service had 38,000 facilities, and the Red Cross has almost 1,000 sites. Both are nationwide service providers. Both organizations have universal service requirements to provide their services (mail as opposed to disaster relief and safe blood products) to all citizens and businesses in the United States and to some people internationally. Not for a minute have I regretted my decision. Whom do you report to? I report to the president and CEO and the board of governors of the American Red Cross. When you were general counsel of the U.S. Postal Service, the agency launched an ambitious and much-lauded alternative dispute resolution program, using outside mediators to handle employment-related disputes. What were the keys to that program’s success? Have you attempted, or are you considering, anything comparable at the Red Cross? In the 1990s, the U.S. Postal Service had over 20,000 formal EEO complaints (50 percent of the EEOC’s federal employee claims docket). While I was general counsel, the law department introduced REDRESS (which stands for Resolve Employment Disputes Reaching Equitable Solutions Swiftly), a mediation alternative to the traditional EEO process for the 850,000 postal employees in 38,000 facilities nationwide. What a turnaround. After just two years, REDRESS reduced EEO complaints by 20 percent, with an 80 percent resolution rate. (Independent studies were conducted and regression analysis showed that REDRESS was the reason for the reduction in the postal EEO cases.) Equally impressive were the satisfaction levels by the participants in the program. Managers, employees, and their union representatives recorded their satisfaction and views of fairness of REDRESS in the high 90 percentiles. Last, but certainly not least, were the independent research findings with 92 percent of the supervisors reporting that the REDRESS experience had improved their ability to manage conflict in the postal workplace. REDRESS is a highlight of my career. Introduced originally as an alternative to the overly litigious EEO process, it actually resulted in more effective conflict management in the Postal Service and overall made it a better place to work. Some of the keys to REDRESS success were: • REDRESS had a top-down and bottom-up approach. I championed REDRESS as the general counsel and eventually other top executives joined in; simultaneously, it was implemented for use by all employees across all levels. • The voluntary nature of the mediation program. Both participation in the REDRESS mediation and the decision on settlement were voluntary to the employees. The Postal Service did not require the managers to settle � just to attend and participate in good faith. Participation by employees was totally voluntary; they could opt to remain in the traditional EEO process if they chose. In short, the parties controlled the decision on whether or not to resolve their workplace disputes, and they had the authority to fashion the elements of that resolution. • The use of 3,000 external, neutral mediators, not internal postal employees. This created a very fair and credible process in the perception of postal employees. • The use of the transformative mediation method. Usually, the mediator controls the process during the mediation and the parties control the decision on the outcome. In the transformative mediation method, the parties control both the process and the decision on whether or not to settle. Transformative mediation has two hallmarks � empowerment and acknowledgement. Empowerment because the parties control the mediation process and the outcome of the mediation; acknowledgement because the mediator facilitates opportunities for the parties to acknowledge the points of view of one another. • The fact that the mediation was scheduled within two weeks after the employee contacted an ADR/EEO counselor. The sooner that a neutral intervention occurs in an employment dispute, the more likely it can be resolved. Two weeks is a short enough time before the parties are locked in their positions (and before attorneys are involved with a traditional litigation approach). • The REDRESS program was initially introduced as a pilot program for 18 months. We took stock of the lessons learned, made changes, and then rolled it out nationally. REDRESS developed credibility, and its success brought more success. • An extensive training plan as well as a communication and marketing plan were essential to inform all about REDRESS as a voluntary, credible, and fair process to resolve workplace disputes. • Finally, there were creative and dedicated professional REDRESS staff in the law department who implemented REDRESS and then managed the program. Of particular note was Cindy Hallberlin, the program manager of REDRESS. As to whether there is a comparable program for the Red Cross, the underpinning of an ADR program like REDRESS is that conflict cannot be eliminated, but can be managed more effectively. While REDRESS does not necessarily translate to the Red Cross, managing conflict does. I have continued to support ADR with an approach tailored to the Red Cross. Having very few employment and EEO cases compared to the 20,000 cases of the U.S. Postal Service, the Red Cross does not need an in-house mediation program like REDRESS. However, ADR is applicable and the Office of General Counsel has introduced a “triage” for claims with an early case assessment to decide whether to litigate, settle, or mediate. In conjunction with human resources, we have streamlined dispute resolutions by training human resources professionals to act as facilitators or negotiate disputes between employees and managers within weeks of the dispute. How big is your legal department? What are your biggest administrative challenges? The Red Cross Office of General Counsel is organized like an in-house law firm, comprising 18 in-house attorneys and outside counsel. We are organized into five major practice areas: (1) litigation and ADR, (2) regulatory affairs, (3) compliance and ethics, (4) corporate transactions, and (5) employment and labor law and Red Cross policy. The total number of staff in the Office of General Counsel is about 40. The biggest administrative challenges are related to outside counsel. We have recently concluded a request for proposals from outside law firms to reduce the number of firms used, to match legal work with the appropriate outside attorneys, and to negotiate better fee arrangements. There is now better management of Red Cross cases and legal issues with fewer firms at better rates; the firms in turn receive a more consistent assurance of work and compensation. The net result is better legal services to the Red Cross. What kind of legal work do you send out? Which law firms do you primarily use? We use outside counsel for employment and general litigation and for those practice areas where we do not have internal expertise. In the corporate transactions, we hire outside counsel to assist in the negotiations, for independent legal opinions, and for some due diligence work. We use both national law firms and some regional firms with local contacts. For many people, one of the main associations with the Red Cross is blood donations. Are there many legal issues related to the supply of donated blood � things like making sure that the donors are properly screened, or working with the Food and Drug Administration? Yes, there are numerous issues regarding the FDA regulation of blood and blood products. The American Red Cross is committed to ensuring the safety of the blood supply and complying with all FDA regulations. The Red Cross is regulated by the FDA, as blood is considered a drug. This requires compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practices and other FDA regulations for all aspects of blood donations, testing, and quality controls of processes and computer programs. In addition, the Red Cross and FDA have a consent decree that imposes requirements on the Red Cross in terms of reporting and quality controls. What’s at the top of your mind these days in terms of substantive legal issues? The key legal issues facing the American Red Cross are compliance with the Amended Consent Decree with the FDA and the corporate transactions for the businesses in the biomedical services area. In addition, a new corporate governance structure is being introduced, known as the Service Area System, to coordinate the quality of services by the chapters and national headquarters. Finally, while the Red Cross is not covered by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, we are reviewing the best practices for good governance. Do you do a lot of traveling as part of your job? Have you visited any disaster sites or war zones? I have been in the job for 15 months and thus far have not done much traveling. I have visited various Red Cross chapters, but have not been to a disaster site or a war zone. Does having personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other troubled parts of the world present any issues for your office to deal with? Legal issues can sometimes arise regarding the American Red Cross personnel deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan, relating to the important need for our staff to operate as neutral and impartial representatives of this organization. However, most issues regarding those areas of the world are handled either by the local Red Cross/Red Crescent Society or the International Committee of the Red Cross. What parts of your job do you find most rewarding? Most challenging? The most rewarding part of the job is to be the chief legal officer to the Red Cross at this time. There are domestic security issues, international crises, strategic changes in biomedical businesses, and the preparedness and disaster response activities of the chapters. The Red Cross is an excellent humanitarian organization whose leaders are dedicated to improving the services to the American public. For me, one of the most interesting features of the Red Cross has been the 1.2 million volunteers and the very significant impact that volunteerism has on the culture. Most challenging? Keeping all these significant balls in the air simultaneously while also providing the day-to-day legal advice to the organization and the board of governors. What are you reading now for fun? Embers, by Sandor Marai, and The Footprints of God, by Greg Iles. Where might we find you on a Saturday afternoon? In art museums or art galleries in Washington, D.C., or driving my son around to various activities.

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