IHRSA's Membership Review/Disciplinary Process
Reporting a Violation
NOTE: Only employees of IHRSA member facilities may submit a suspected violation of IHRSA's By-Laws and/or Membership Eligibility Standards.
IHRSA Members may download a Membership Review/Complaint form, or contact IHRSA Member Service at 800-228-4772 or 617-951-0055 to request one.
IHRSA's Membership Review Committee will investigate all reports and follow up with the parties involved.
Process for Resolving Complaints About An IHRSA Club By Another IHRSA Club
Questions have been raised about the effectiveness of IHRSA's standards in regulating member conduct and about the role of IHRSA in the enforcement process. Specifically, there is a concern that the complaint procedure is being used as a competitive tactic rather than a means to ensure the industry abides by best practices. Also, IHRSA is finding that its role as an investigator is placing the association in the middle of commercial disputes between members, and the lack of effective investigatory authority makes rendering a fair decision difficult.
In light of these issues, IHRSA's legal counsel has recommended that the association adopt an approach whereby it disciplines a member club only if there has been an adverse finding by a recognized enforcement body, such as a court of law or governmental regulatory agency. This course of action can avoid most if not all of the problems and potential liability associated with the investigation and enforcement of standards for member conduct. The association, in effect, allows the court or other enforcement body to take on the burden of the investigation and the making of findings. This approach can work especially well if there is an agency that has specific authority over the industry, such as a state attorney general or department of consumer affairs.
In fact, the experience of IHRSA is not unusual; the divide between the theory and the reality of enforceable association membership standards can be wide. Members of associations often view an association disciplinary process as a viable method of conducting competitive warfare, and one that is quicker and less expensive than litigation. In addition, the absence of certain basic investigatory tools, such as subpoena authority and the ability to depose witnesses under oath, can be a significant impediment to an effective investigation.
An association that wishes to enforce standards of conduct faces potential legal challenges and potential liability. One of the most common sources of allegations is antitrust law. For example, a member against whom charges are alleged may assert that the complainant and the association are conspiring to harm the respondent. This can be a particularly compelling claim if the complainant is a direct competitor of the respondent.
Defamation is another common cause of action in disciplinary proceedings. To say that a company has violated membership rules can be damaging to the reputation of respondent, especially if competitors publicize the fact that the company is being investigated or has been disciplined. In fact, the respondent may feel compelled to bring a defamation action in order to protect its reputation.
In addition, the disciplinary process itself presents a number of opportunities for legal challenge, including lack of due process.
A club operator wishing to resolve a complaint against another club should take the following steps before IHRSA can get involved:
- Open the lines of communication. Call the owner or operator of the other club to discuss the issue. Consider the possibility that the matter is the result of a misunderstanding or misinformation.
- Request a meeting in a neutral location if further discussion is warranted.
- If this discussion and/or meeting does not resolve the issue, you may wish to involve local authorities. Once legal authorities become involved, IHRSA must step aside. Legal action shall immediately halt IHRSA's participation in the dispute resolution process.
IHRSA Club Membership Review Process
IHRSA's Membership Review Committee (the 'committee') is a standing committee with the responsibility of reviewing allegations of member noncompliance and taking appropriate disciplinary action, when appropriate. The committee's purpose is to ensure compliance with the association's by-laws and membership standards. The committee shall consist of the president and ceo, the vice president of member service, and three board members, annually appointed by the president. The chairperson of the standards committee or their appointee will serve as chairperson.
- If any IHRSA member has proof that another IHRSA member has violated the by-laws, membership standards, and/or code of conduct by engaging in an illegal activity, that member shall be entitled to report the same, in writing, to the president and ceo or, in the absence of the president and ceo, to the vice president of member service.
- The president and ceo or his representative shall then contact the complainant and the respondent and attempt to resolve the issue amicably, by calling attention to the by-laws, membership standards, and/or code of conduct. The president and ceo shall request that the complainant and the respondent personally and amicably speak to each other to resolve the issue. Should this not occur, IHRSA will attempt to act as an intermediary so that the issue can be resolved. IHRSA's president and ceo will communicate with club owners and operators, but not with outside counsel, in an attempt to resolve the issue(s).
- In the event that IHRSA is unable to resolve the complaint through informal channels, the president and ceo shall request in writing that the complainant file a formal complaint on the standard IHRSA form and submit all written evidence of the proven violations(s) within 14 days of the date of the president and ceo's written request. Written proof of an activity found to be illegal by a recognized enforcement body is required for consideration by IHRSA's Membership Review Committee. The president and ceo and/or the vice president of member service will review the complaint and written proof to determine if the case is eligible for Committee review. If necessary, the president and ceo and/or vice president of member service shall request additional information. IHRSA cannot investigate a formal complaint while litigation is pending when substantially the same issues are being raised in the complaint.
- The formal complaint and evidence will be given to the committee for further consideration and possible action as determined by the Committee. A final appeal may be made to the complete board. The board of directors shall, within 30 days following the conclusion of the appeal hearing, issue a decision either adopting the recommendation of the committee or alternatively selecting another remedy. The decision of the board of directors shall be final and binding on all parties.