Q&A: Handling a Harassing President

Q. What can be done when the president of the condo corporation verbally harasses the building’s superintendent?

                  —Seeking to Stop the Abuse

A.  “Since condominiums are not corporations (although the boards of managers of some condominiums have been incorporated), it is not clear if the letter writer is inquiring about the president of a condominium association or a cooperative apartment corporation, so I will provide an answer for both scenarios,” says attorney Jeffrey Reich of the New York City firm of Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas, LLP.

“Whether the building is a condominium or cooperative, no board member (let alone the president of the board) should harass or verbally abuse a member of the building staff. Such behavior could result in a lawsuit against the building, a grievance being filed with the employee’s union, a decrease in the morale of the staff, or the loss of a valued employee. Any disciplinary action that a board determines the need for with respect to a building employee should be carried out by the managing agent, who is paid to supervise the building staff. Additionally, such disciplinary decisions should be made on a board level and not determined by an individual board member, whether the board member is the president or not.

“In the situation where a board president has verbally abused a building staff member, the board members should discuss the matter with the president, and the other board members should make it clear to the president that such behavior is not in the best interest of the building and will not be tolerated. The board can also entertain a resolution confirming that no board member may verbally abuse a staff member and that all negative feedback and disciplinary action shall be handled by the management team. Should the president continue to abuse the staff, the board can remove the president from office (as the president) and possibly from the board (the condominium or cooperative bylaws should describe the process for removing a board member from office, which can usually be done by a board vote, and for removing a board member from the board, which usually requires a vote of the unit owners or shareholders).”

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