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What are the legal implications of members behaving badly?

With the recent headlines detailing alleged harassment by powerful persons in the entertainment industry and beyond, it is imperative that employers effectively address claims of discrimination, harassment and hostile work environment now more than ever. But what happens when an employee is being harassed or mistreated by a club member? 

Employers have a duty to protect their employees from discrimination, harassment and hostile work environments, regardless of who perpetrates the alleged bad acts. All allegations against a member by an employee should be promptly and thoroughly investigated. While such investigations can be uncomfortable, it is in the club’s best interest to conduct a thorough investigation, which includes interviewing the employee(s) and member(s) at issue. A thorough investigation should be a club’s first defense, and may be its best defense, against a possible lawsuit. The club may also consider suspending or expelling the member pending investigation if the allegations are severe. If there is enough evidence to support the employee’s allegations, then remedial action should be taken against the member immediately. Any suspensions/expulsions or remedial actions should be taken in accordance with the club’s bylaws and other governing documents; however, the club must eliminate the risk of further bad acts against the employee(s).

Anne Osborn is senior corporate counsel of Troon, the world’s largest golf management company, with more than 270 golf courses in 36 states and 31 countries in its portfolio. Troon also specializes in homeowner association management, private residence clubs, estate management and associated hospitality venues. She can be reached at [email protected].

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