2018 has been the year of the viral movement to bring sexual harassment claims to light. Businesses across the globe have reviewed their employment policies to ensure staff are protected. But what about co-op and condos? “Horseplay among staff members can easily escalate into what might be considered harassing behavior. A board members repeated flirtations with or sarcastic comments about a fellow director may not be taken lightly. A super who singles out a staff member for repeated ridicule could face complaints that he is creating a hostile work environment.”
So how can co-op and condo boards prepare for future sexual harassment claims? In light of the current legal climate co-op and condo boards, and their managing agents, need to implement measures to ensure they are protecting their staff, residents and board members from sexual harassment and other forms of harassment. It is important to create an environment where people feel respected and safe. Board members can do this by adding anti-harassment policies to the building’s existing by-laws to regulate the actions of staff, board members and residents, and help create a space free of sexual harassment or other intimidating behavior.
Co-op and condo boards should implement zero tolerance policies for all types of harassment and specifically acknowledge the sensitive nature of sexual harassment claims. The by-laws should define what constitutes as harassment and sexual harassment pursuant to the relevant laws, explain the consequences and grounds for action, and methods to prevent harassment in the building. Sexual harassment can include an indecent act, non-consent to a sexual act, blackmailing a person to perform a sexual act, and making repeated suggestions or references of a sexual nature. It is paramount to ensure that figures of authority do not abuse their positions of power and are also subject to the policies.
These written policies must provide a clear protocol and complaint procedure for staff, board members and residents. The protocol will appoint a sexual harassment officer to hear complaints, receive and file reports, lead disciplinary proceedings, and answer any questions. All of this information must be kept confidential. This officer is typically a board member or managing agent. It is important to designate a second person for this role in case the complaint is being made against the officer. The protocol must also provide individuals with an explanation of the measures that can be taken, the investigation process, and when and how to file a criminal or civil proceeding.
Implementing harassment and sexual harassment policies will help guard co-op and condo boards against liability. Creating a clear policy and protocol, specifically for employees, will help deter harassment and require employees to first report the harassment to the designated officer. Co-op and condo boards should ask their legal counsel to draft their harassment and sexual harassment policies for the building’s by-laws to protect the building, board members, staff and residents.
 Prevost, L. (April 2, 2018) “Why You Need a Harassment Policy Right Now.” Habitat Magazine. Available at: https://www.habitatmag.com/Publication-Content/Legal-Financial/2017/2017-December/Harassment-Policy. Accessed on April 1, 2018.