Staffing, Employer Liability and Homeowners Associations: Who is Handling Your HR?

You may take on several responsibilities as an HOA board member, but Human Resources (HR) should not be one of them. In order to avoid employer liability, your board should leave HR responsibilities to a professional community management company.
 
“Managing the various tasks that it takes to staff your community requires specialized knowledge in both HR and community management,” said Laurie Preston, HR director for FirstService Residential in Arizona. “When your board isn’t well versed in HR law, you may be putting your association at risk.”
 
Preston said that these risks generally involve employee relations issues. For example, “You might ask more personal questions like ‘Do you have children?’ or ‘What nationality are you?’ simply because you are interested in getting to know the applicant on a friendly basis. What you may not realize is that it’s illegal to ask those kinds of questions.”
 
An experienced HOA management company has a network of knowledgeable corporate recruiters and HR professionals who not only know how to handle interview questions, but how to perform other essential HR functions. As part of their job, they:
  • Meet with board members and visit communities in order to place new hires in the right locations
  • Work with community managers to ensure that communities are appropriately staffed 
  • Hold training sessions on interviewing, hiring and utilizing recruiting databases
  • Transfer and onboard associates from acquired communities

When you entrust an HOA management company with HR and staffing, they also hold all legal liability. As a result, you and your fellow board members cannot intervene directly with an employee on any HR-related matters. “If one of your board members has an issue with an employee, it’s best to bring it to the attention of the community manager,” said Preston.
 
Relying on your management company for HR and staffing needs does not mean the board doesn’t have a say in those who join the staff. Many HR directors hold a meet and greet with board members and potential associates, to get to know one another and see if they are a good fit for the community. This is not an interview, since there are legal implications involved with that. Ultimately, the community management company is the employer. 
 
It’s important to note that many community management companies do not have in-house recruiters or HR specialists. Additionally, some management companies that do have HR associates may only have individuals tasked with certain jobs like payroll and hiring. This tactic leaves your association particularly vulnerable because your HOA technically remains the employer in these situations, but it is also responsible if the management company mishandles an employee issue.
 
Thinking about hiring a management company to handle your association’s HR responsibilities? Start by asking them these questions:
  1. Do you have a corporate recruiter?
  2. Will you or the HOA be the staff’s employer?
  3. What HR responsibilities will your company handle?
  4. What kind of training on HR responsibilities will you provide to our board?
  5. How do you recruit and evaluate potential employees?
  6. Will our board have a say in the selection process?
  7. Who will be the liaison between our board and the staff?
  8. Who will be the point person to speak to staff about HR matters?
  9. How will you transition existing employees to your company? Do you provide on-site orientation, and are board members able to attend? 

Of course, you will want to ask your management company additional questions before hiring them to help you with your HR needs. No matter what, working with an experienced community management company that has a network of HR specialists and corporate recruiters is crucial. By taking on the role of employer, your board opens itself up to potential liability and other issues. For more information, contact FirstService Residential, Arizona’s leader in HOA management services.