J.J. from Broward County, Florida writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
A President has just been elected for the condo I worked for in greater Fort Lauderdale. I have worked for this condo as a cleaning and maintenance person for the past 4 years. The Board President was re-elected in January, 2015. Two weeks after the president’s re-election, the president fired me. No reason was given and the president refused to put it in writing. The association deducted 1/2 of my pay for the last paycheck. The president sent a newly elected board member to fire me 2 minutes after my scheduled time on duty. I would very much like to get involved with Condo Law and combat some venomous board members who should be discarded from numerous Association Boards in Broward County, Florida. How do I approach this potential career opportunity? Many thanks for your web site and thank you in advance for any direction you are able to offer.
Mister Condo replies:
J.J., I am so sorry that you were fired from your job as a condominium maintenance professional. My column regularly deals with the issues of governance, management, and neighbor’s poor behavior towards each other. Rarely do I have the opportunity to comment on working conditions and the work environment for the employees of the associations and the management companies that supply the labor to keep these communities in tip top shape. For starters, thank you for your service!
There are a few things going on in your letter I wish to address. Let me try to break down the issues I see and offer some friendly advice. Please keep in mind that I am not an attorney and you would be wise to seek the advice of a lawyer for any employment law issues that may be pertinent in your case.
As an employee of the association, you are subject to the same rules of employment as any other worker. You are an employee of the association, which is structured as a non-profit corporation. I am not familiar with Florida state employment laws but I am certain that you have some protections as an employee and your employer must comply with federal, state, and local employment laws. If you feel the association or the Board President has violated your rights as an employee (docking ½ of your pay sounds highly suspect to me), you may wish to seek an attorney to take action against the association.
Every condominium association has different rules and by-laws about who is in charge of what within the association. Generally speaking, there are certain executive powers that come with being Board President. If the Board President was empowered to make a hiring or firing decision then I don’t see what recourse you would have against that decision. Sending a new Board member to do the dirty work of letting you go speaks to this person’s character, but, again, there may be no wrong doing. It would appear that you have a troubled history with the person serving as Board President which is unfortunate as this person is the equivalent of a boss in the public sector. Folks that don’t get along well with their bosses often end up getting fired. However, just like with any firing, both employee and employer have rights. An attorney can tell you if any of your rights as an employee were violated.
As far as pursuing a career in condo law, you are certainly in the right part of the country to do so. Some of the largest condo law firms I know of are in Florida, which is no surprise given the concentration of condominiums and HOAs in the Sunshine State. You need to pursue a law degree and then concentrate in the practice of community association law. You have an excellent resource right in your backyard with the Southeast Florida Chapter of CAI. You can visit their website at https://cai-seflorida.org. All the best!