A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 14 Penn Plaza LLC v. Pyett from earlier this year may have a significant impact on how your association or management company handles future labor disputes with unionized employees. According to New York attorney William Hummell, a partner at Kucker and Bruh LLP, employers of union employees can now enforce the alternative dispute resolution or arbitration provisions in their collective bargaining agreement rather than have an employment issue, such as a discrimination claim, resolved through protracted federal litigation.
Small claims court is used to resolve relatively minor civil disputes in a fair, low-cost, and timely manner. If the money damages that you're seeking are relatively small (typically less than $5,000, although the amount varies by state) and the association's preference is for a speedy, inexpensive hearing in a less-formal venue, then small claims court may be a viable option.
Federal laws require employers including community associations and management companies to post signs explaining legal information to their employees. Failure to post the signs can cost as much as $10,000 per violation. Fortunately, compliance is easy. The signs are available free of charge from the government agencies that oversee the sign-posting laws.
When you hire a bad apple to work in your community, you run some serious risks. The individual may perpetrate some sort of crime due to easy access to your members. If news of the crime gets out, your community's reputation may plummet and you may fall into a costly legal trap called “negligent hiring.” The association or your management office may be liable because you exposed members or visitors to dangerous employees through poor hiring practices.
Communities often rely on a variety of outside contractors or vendors to perform services on their behalf ranging from landscaping to plumbing. If one of your members complains about harassment or discrimination by one of these contractors, it's not enough for you to apologize and explain that he doesn't work for the association.
Many record inspection requests by members are legitimate and take relatively little office time. Unfortunately, sometimes requests may be driven by unfounded suspicions, with the intent to harass the board or manager. Also, these requests may be attempts to gather confidential information to which members are not entitled so that they may sue the association or other members. Therefore, to protect the interests of the association, it is important for board members to know which requests to grant and which to deny.
All management companies and associations have to deal with a problem employee at some point, no matter how carefully they hire employees or how diligently they try to create a good work environment. For many managers or directors, deciding whether and how to discipline or fire an employee is one of the most stressful parts of the job.
Many associations are seeing an increase in the number of members defaulting on their mortgages and not paying their association fees. This is a problem for many communities because if even a few members do not pay their assessments on time, an association can face serious financial problems. Reserves can become depleted, and the community might have to make trade-offs about which bills to pay and which services to forgo.
To encourage member participation in community affairs, many associations have open meetings that permit members to attend and speak about their concerns. Allowing this exchange fosters trust between the board and the community and gives members a chance to voice their opinions and concerns.