Responding to Sexual Harassment Claims
What will your community association do if a board member is accused of sexual harassment, or even assault? What if the allegation against the association’s manager? What if the allegation is that another owner is sexually harassing another owner? What if the victim asks to keep their allegations confidential?
“Nothing” is not an acceptable answer. The ultimate answer will of course depend on the facts and circumstances involved. The process, and what is done in reaching that “ultimate answer,” is vitally important. Mess up the process and an association can create liability where none previously existed.
Also, do not necessarily assume that an allegation of harassment is a “neighbor-to-neighbor” dispute that does not involve the association. For example, if an owner harasses another owner on community property and the Association fails to evaluate the situation and determine a response, the failure to do so could result in liability. Even if the harassment takes place off-property, an association needs to evaluate its potential role and response. The association’s response may be that it does not have authority to take any action. That response must, however, be communicated to the owner and communicated in an appropriate manner. Failing to communicate a response, even if the response is that no action will be taken, could possibly impact or create liability.
Given the potential liability and sensitivity of such allegations, an association should contact legal counsel for guidance anytime there is a report of sexual harassment or discrimination.