No board wants to consider that a member of their management agency or an employee of their housing association would engage in harassment or discrimination of any kind. But if a claim proceeds to litigation, it’s crucial for housing associations to understand the law and their liability for their employee’s alleged actions. There are steps that you can take as an association to minimize the likelihood of harassment and discrimination at your facility—and minimize your liability.
Understanding the Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability. This broad-ranging legislation says that you cannot grant, deny or qualify a person’s access to housing based on any of these characteristics. The Fair Housing Act also means that you must make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities to provide these individuals with equal opportunities.
What can you do to limit your liability as an association?
While it is impossible to control the actions of individuals, you can create a culture and establish acceptable practices within your organization.
- Establish written policies on discrimination and harassment, creating firm boundaries, guidelines and penalties.
- Provide training on sexual harassment, informing staff on policies and reporting procedures.
- Provide diversity and inclusion seminars to discourage discrimination based on race and establish company values on this matter.
- Make your management company—not your board—the employer of all employees. This is to ensure that any and all litigation would be their responsibility, not yours.
Taking these preemptive steps to limit your liability could mean the difference in maintaining your business and shutting your doors.