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Education, Education, Education – Overcoming Harassment, Racism and Hostility in Community Associations

Let’s face it, 2020 was rough and not everyone was nice about it.  Hate crimes have increased dramatically over the last six years.  Heightened political tensions have led to family quarrels and neighbor-to-neighbor feuds.  And to top it all off, the COVID pandemic and corresponding lockdowns has made most of us a little stir crazy.

Where does this leave community associations?  Associations have a duty to protect residents from a hostile environment and can be held responsible for the actions of its board members, employees, and residents.

So what’s a community association to do?  GET EDUCATED AND TAKE ACTION!

The 4 A’s – Awareness, Accountability, Action and Adopt.

  • Awareness: The key to awareness is education. Educate board members and employees/agents about the types of discrimination they should look out for.  Educate board members on the importance of diversity.
  • Accountability: Don’t look the other way.  Take seriously complaints from residents, especially when they relate to discrimination of a protected class (eg. race, nationality, age, familial status).  You could be sued!
  • Take Action: Don’t wait for the resident to complain if you hear of discriminatory harassment from another source.  Enforce your rules to help end discriminatory conduct.  If you receive complaints, acknowledge receipt, and act.
  • Adopt and Practice: Adopt and publish Anti-Discrimination Policies—that will help educate and put residents on notice as well. Adopt and publish a harassment reporting policy and form a response plan (this includes evaluating the Board’s authority to respond).

Other tips:

  • Adopt the Community Associations Institute Civility Pledge.
  • Provide easy access to information and post to your Association website.
  • Institutionalized fairness – Include a statement on your Association website that lets your residents know that your community welcomes and encourages diversity.

These are extremely sensitive and emotionally trying issues.  Be proactive.  Be prepared.  Talk as a Board.  Talk to your residents.  And talk to your attorneys.

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