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Managing Difficult Situations Fairly and Legally Briefing Paper

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  • You work hard to make sure your members and staff have great experiences at your club. However, sometimes—despite your best efforts—you find yourself in a difficult situation.

    Has your club ever run into one of the following tough scenarios?

    • Someone suspected of stealing from the locker rooms
    • Complaints of a member leering at other members and making them feel uncomfortable
    • Complaints about members ignoring the time limits on equipment
    • A member acting as an informal (unpaid) personal trainer for other members
    • These are just a few of the specific situations we cover in this briefing paper. We hope these are things you'll never have to deal with, but it's always good to have a plan. That's why we've also included some recommendations in the event you do need to expel or discipline a member.

    "Difficult situations come up in clubs all too regularly, but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with them," says Helen Durkin, J.D., IHRSA's executive vice president of public policy. Durkin and her team listened to the problems clubs were having and created this briefing paper to keep your bad days from turning into legal nightmares.

    Do you know the legal risk of disciplining, suspending, or expelling a member? How about refusing membership to an individual? The greatest risk is a discrimination suit. Especially if the individual believes they are being treated differently based on race, disability, sexual orientation, or some other factor which cannot legally be taken into consideration.

    Does your membership contract clearly state in what instances your club reserves the right to suspend or cancel a membership? Do you have rules and regulations posted around your club?

    We've included five examples of expulsion clauses from IHRSA club's membership agreements and member handbooks in this briefing paper, along with nine steps you or your staff should take if you find it necessary to discipline or expel a member.

    IHRSA's public policy team works with our legal team to produce valuable resources for our members, but remember, this document should not be considered legal advice.

    If you have questions after reading this briefing paper, you can always email IHRSA to see if we have additional information, but sometimes your best next step will be to seek the advice of a qualified attorney. If it does come to that, feel free to share the briefing paper with your attorney. It could cut down on your attorney’s bill since it starts the research process for them.