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Q&A: Handling Harassment

Q. We are having a problem at our condominium, but I'm not sure whether board members — I'm kind of new at the post — should be taking action, or if there is even any action we can take. What can be done when the president of the condo board verbally harasses the building's superintendent? We don't want to lose this employee, especially in today's environment.

 —Empathetic Owner

A. “It goes without saying that a condominium board member should not verbally harass anybody,” says Gary M. Daddario, partner at Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks, PC in Merrimack, New Hampshire. “The problem can be both further complicated and potentially more harmful to the association when the board member is verbally harassing someone who works for the association. Accordingly, this is a situation that should be addressed both swiftly and firmly by the remaining board members.  

“Every set of condominium documents sets forth the requirement for a board action (typically a majority vote). Thus, board members simply should not be acting unilaterally, regardless of what they are doing. So, in the short-term, the rest of the board should meet and inform the problem board member that they must no longer communicate with the building superintendent one-on-one. Instead, depending on the communication needed, it should be provided by way of a memo approved by the board or through discussion involving a meeting between the board and the superintendent.

 “Next, in the longer term, the problem board member needs to conform to some standards of professionalism. When needed, boards sometimes put together and formally adopt a ‘code of conduct’ that they agree to abide by in their dealings with each other and others when it comes to the business of the community. If the problem board member cannot be deterred from inappropriate conduct, the remaining board members should investigate the removal provision of your governing documents.  

“It is best to try to work with someone (including warning them of your intentions) prior to seeking removal. However, someone who persistently engages in unprofessional conduct poses a risk to the community, and the remaining board members should resolve the matter, one way or another, before the community is harmed.”

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