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Conflict With a Housekeeper

Two neighbors on my floor employ the same maid. Another condominium owner and I have both had verbal altercations with this maid. She swore at each of us and, in my case, pushed me aside during a conflict about who could use a common washing machine. Neither of her employers fired her. When I emailed the managing agent about my concerns, I was told to “just keep me posted.” Shouldn’t the condo association do more? What responsibilities and authority does it have to resolve a matter like this?

East Harlem, Manhattan

The behavior you describe sounds inexcusable. But there are two sides to every story, and the housekeeper might have her own take on what transpired. Even if she is wrong, there still might be more to it. Maybe she is under enormous pressure to get the laundry done for two households before she leaves for a third job, or to pick up a child.

See if you can resolve this issue with the housekeeper’s employers directly. Tell them what happened and ask them to explain what prompted such behavior. Can they assure you that it will not be repeated?

“People are much more three-dimensional than their worst moments,” said Brad Heckman, the chief executive of New York Peace Institute, which provides mediation services for New Yorkers.

As angry as you might be, remember that the consequences for the housekeeper could be grave: She stands to lose not one job, but two.

If the situation does not improve, you and your aggrieved neighbor should write to the board requesting that it intervene. Include the dates and times when the events took place. The board might be reluctant to step in because it is hearing only one side of the story — and it is not obligated to act on every complaint it receives.

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“It’s a gray area,” said Steven R. Wagner, a Manhattan real estate lawyer who represents co-op and condo boards.

A condo board has the authority to enforce building rules, including those that apply to the behavior of an owner’s employee or guest. The condo might also have rules that allow it to bar certain employees or contractors from the building. It could write a letter to the offending owners, insisting that they and their employees comply with building rules or face action by the board. But if it makes a bad call and the housekeeper is wrongly fired, the board could be liable.

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“If the housekeeper loses her job because somebody made a false claim against her, then she could file a defamation claim” against the board and anyone else who made such accusations, Mr. Wagner said. But by the same token, if the board is aware of the problem and it escalates, and someone is injured, the board could be sued for negligence.

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