How Adjudicate Works

Adjudicate is the verb form of the term adjudication. Adjudication is how individuals or parties resolve legal disputes, usually with a third party’s involvement. Informally, you can apply adjudication to any situation where you must resolve a dispute; you don’t have to be in a courtroom setting. Therefore, when you adjudicate something, you make a final resolution on what is right in a situation.

Another common application of “adjudicate” is when someone is looking to hire a candidate with a questionable background check. In this case, the hiring manager would look at company standards and compare them to the candidate’s history. Inconsistent education history—a resume has conflicting information—can also trigger an audit of the candidate’s information. This process is called adjudication.

By following company guidelines, the hiring manager can make the judgment call for the situation.

Adjudicate Example

In a business setting, a company’s human resources department adjudicates any time there is a significant disagreement or dispute. Personnel will interpret company policies and procedures and state and federal labor laws to come to a decision.

Say a unionized package delivery driver files a grievance against a company, stating that the Department of Transportation (DOT) forces them to work over the acceptable max time in the grievance. Human Resources must now work with the union to solve the issue and eventually adjudicate in the worker’s favor. DOT law states that no driver can work over sixty hours, and the company is currently requiring employees to work sixty-five hours. Human Resources informs the employee’s manager about the ruling, and the union is satisfied.

Significance of Adjudicate

Adjudicating in the sense of conflict resolution is essential for the sheer fact that you settle a dispute. It is also a more official way to come down on decision-making. On paper, “adjudicate” is more formal and weightier than “decides.”

Applying the concept “adjudicate” to the hiring process keeps hiring standards consistent and fair. If someone doesn’t have a clean record—say they failed a drug test or have points against their license—you don’t have to write them off entirely if their resume is good.

Instead, you’d acknowledge the offenses and compare them to company policy. If company policy makes no statement that an employee needs a clean record or can test positive for marijuana—but not opioids or other substances—the candidate can move forward with the job. The company’s policies must also align with the Department of Labor.

Adjudicate vs. Judge

Though you may think these two words mean the same thing, they don’t. The difference is slight but enough to be significant. To adjudicate is to settle an issue, while to judge is simply to pass a ruling on something based on evidence and decide the most truthful party. Adjudication is more formal and deliberate than judgment and makes a set decision to solve a problem—when you adjudicate, you don’t always take one side or another.