“No Lifeguard on Duty” Signs: Discriminatory?

By Christina S. Saad, Esq.

Published February 21, 2023

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Like many Californians, you may be so used to seeing “No Lifeguard on Duty” and “Caution” signs posted around public pools and spas that you just glance at the verbiage and do not give it a second thought.   Like public pools and spas, common interest developments (CIDs) with pools and/or spas are required to post “No Lifeguard” and “Caution” signs pursuant to Sections  3120B.4 and 3120B.7 of the California Code of Regulations. The same is required for all other public pools and spas.

What CIDs may not be aware of is the sign verbiage required by Cal. Code Regs. Section 3120B.4 and 3120B.7 just a couple of years ago likely violated fair housing laws.  CIDs were therefore stuck between their obligations to post the required pool/spa sign verbiage and avoid enforcing discriminatory rules; however, a 2019 update to Cal. Code Regs. Section 3120B.4 and 3120B (effective January 1, 2020) removed the discriminatory components.

Now, CIDs must not only change the sign verbiage accordingly, but they should also review their Pool and Spa Rules to ensure the language is not discriminatory.

Change in Required Sign Verbiage

Prior to the 2019 update, Cal. Code Regs. § 3120B.4 required “No Lifeguard” signs to state “NO LIFEGUARD ON DUTY” in addition to ”Children under the age of 14 shall not use pool without a parent or adult guardian in attendance”.  However, a US Discrict Court in California found that such restrictions discriminated against families wih children (protected by federal and state  fair housing laws), in that it treated families with children differently and less favorably than adult-only households.  (See United States v. Plaza Mobile Estates (2003).)  After the 2019 update, the required verbiage changed to “NO LIFEGUARD ON DUTY” followed by “Children should not use pool without adult supervision”.  Similarly, the “Caution” sign verbiage for spas changed from “Unsupervised use by children under the age of 14 is prohibited” to “Children should not use spa without adult supervision.”  (See Cal. Code Regs. § 3120B.7 for additional required verbiage.)  The amendments to both provisions removed reference to a specific age and altered the prohibitory language to mere suggestions.

What Should Your Community Do?

  1. CIDs with pools and/or spas should update their “No Lifeguard on Duty” and “Caution” signs to reflect the current, non-discriminatory language in Code Regs. §§ 3120B.4 and 3120B.7.
  2. In addition, they should review their Pool and Spa Rules to ensure they do not treat families with children more harshly than adult-only households.

PRACTICE TIP:  Avoid any reference to specific ages or familial dynamics in your CID’s  Pool and Spa Rules.

Although restrictive Pool and Spa Rules may be well intentioned, any such discriminatory language would only be acceptable if the CID could successfully articulate a compelling business necessity and the language is “the least restrictive means to achieve that end”.   (Fair Housing Council v. Ayres, 855 F. Supp. 315, 318-19 (C.D.Cal.1994).

Do you have questions regarding your Pool or Spa  Rules? Our firm is happy to review or draft a new set of rules for your community.  Please contact us.


Formation and Use of Executive Committees

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By Karyn A. Larko, Esq. and Christina S. Saad, Esq.

A committee is a group of persons appointed by an association’s board of directors to perform a specific task or tasks.

The scope of authority of a committee is largely dependent on its composition. A committee composed solely or partially of persons other than board members is generally tasked with advising the board on specific matters or exercising powers granted to that committee by the governing documents (e.g., some architectural review committees (“ARCs”).

Conversely, executive committees (“ECs”) are composed of two or more current directors and only current directors in accordance with California Corporations Code § 7212. ECs are given decision-making power that would otherwise be exercised by the board. An example of an EC is a litigation committee comprised solely of directors, established to communicate with the association’s legal counsel and make decisions pertaining to a lawsuit. Another example is an ARC comprised solely of directors tasked with exercising the board’s authority under the governing documents to approve or reject architectural applications.

Forming an EC

An EC should be formed when a board needs to delegate tasks for which it is responsible. This need may arise when a board is dealing with a complex, time-consuming matter that is ongoing and necessitates attention between board meetings. This need also exists when a dispute exists between a director and the association. In the latter example, the interested director (i.e., the director whose interests are contrary to the association’s interests) should not serve on the EC due to their conflicting interests.

California Civil Code § 5350 requires directors to recuse themselves from voting on certain matters. In some instances, it may also be prudent to form an EC to address these matters.

ECs should not be formed to exclude a director from generally participating in board discussions and votes. However, if a director is jeopardizing the interests of the association by, for example, revealing confidential or privileged information to others, it may be appropriate to form an EC to exclude that director from meetings whereat the Board discusses matters that, if made public, might expose the association to liability or disadvantage the association in a dispute. Your boards should consult with their association’s legal counsel before forming an EC for this purpose as taking this action can also create legal issues for the association.

Why Form an EC?

There are benefits to having ECs. An EC comprised of directors willing and able to volunteer more time to the association can address complex, time-consuming matters more quickly than the entire Board. Additionally, since an EC has fewer members, scheduling meetings and coming to a collective decision on matters is often easier. Finally, if less than a quorum of directors serves on an EC, the EC meetings are not subject to the Open Meetings Act (i.e., the meetings are not subject to the same notice and agenda requirements as board meetings).

In the event of a dispute involving a director, especially a dispute that could lead to litigation, there are important additional benefits to establishing an EC of disinterested directors (i.e., directors not adverse to the association in the matter) to handle the dispute. By establishing the EC, the board can prevent the interested director from obtaining privileged or confidential communications and documents related to the matter (e.g. correspondence between the EC and the association’s legal counsel, expert findings), thereby better protecting the association’s attorney-client privilege and its interests. The board can also avoid the appearance of impropriety and better protect the association and directors individually against potential liability.

In order to preserve the association’s attorney-client privilege, however, all EC meetings pertaining to the director dispute must be held in executive session and all legal guidance, EC discussions, meeting minutes and other documents and information related to the dispute cannot be disclosed to persons outside of the EC, including other directors.

Forming an EC

Have your boards review their governing documents prior to establishing an EC. The governing documents may already establish the EC, grant the board committee-making authority or, conversely, limit the board’s committee-making authority, as well as impose requirements on how ECs are formed or who may serve on them.

Unless otherwise provided for in the governing documents, ECs may be formed by a resolution or charter adopted by a quorum of the board pursuant to Corporations Code § 7212. A resolution is an official expression of the opinion or will of the board that includes the reasons for that opinion or will. A charter is a founding document that is typically more detailed than a resolution and outlines the EC’s responsibilities and authority.

When forming an EC, your boards should consider: 1) whether any directors have conflicts of interest that disqualify them from appointment or perceived conflicts that make appointment unwise; 2) whether certain directors have knowledge and experience that would benefit the EC; 3) the time commitment needed to serve on the EC; 4) whether the governing documents dictate which directors serve on the EC (e.g. based on the offices they hold); 5) whether California law dictates the composition of the EC (e.g. Civil Code § 5501 requires the treasurer to serve on an EC that reviews the association’s financials); and 6) the willingness of directors to serve on the EC.

The board should also keep in mind that if the EC is composed of a majority of the board, the same notice and agenda requirements for board meetings will apply to EC meetings. Having said this, the authority of an EC composed of a quorum of the Board is less likely to be challenged. Thus, ECs established to handle controversial matters should generally include a quorum of the board.


Multiple Choice Questions (correct answers in bold)

An executive committee may be composed of two or more:

a) current and former directors.

b) current directors and general members.

c) current directors and non-member experts on the matter.

d) current directors only.


Which of the following is not an appropriate reason for a board to form an executive committee?

a) a complex, time-consuming matter has arisen for the association

b) a majority of directors do not like the personality of another director

c) a dispute exists between a director and the association

d) the governing documents have granted the Board the authority to do so


Which of the following statements pertaining to executive committees is accurate?

a) An executive committee must be formed by a quorum of the board, and all executive committee meetings must be properly noticed pursuant to the Open Meetings Act.

b) An executive committee may be formed by a quorum of the board, in which case the executive committee meetings must be properly noticed pursuant to the Open Meetings Act.

c) An executive committee may be formed by a quorum of the board, but, in either case, notice of executive committee meetings should not be provided to the membership.

d) An executive committee may not be formed by a quorum of the board, and notice of executive committee meetings should not be provided to the membership.


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*This article was originally published in The Law Journal Winter, 2022 and was adapted from the original article, Formation and Use of Executive Committees, as authored by Karyn A. Larko, Esq. and Christina S. Saad, Esq.


Potential Liability for Non-Employee COVID-19 Infections: See’s Candies, Inc. v. Superior Court

By Christina S. Saad, Esq.

Employers may be held liable for COVID-19 (“COVID”) infections of non-employees, as evidenced by a recent California Court of Appeal decision.

In the recent case of See’s Candies, Inc. v. Superior Court, (Dec. 21, 2021, No. B312241) [2021 Cal. App. LEXIS 1076], the California Court of Appeal, Second District, found that an employer that has not taken adequate measures to prevent the spread of COVID in the workplace may be held liable if an employee contracts COVID at work and spreads it to a third-party, such as a spouse, if the third-party suffers a resulting injury. The court did not resolve the extent to which the employer’s duty of care reaches, however.

In See’s Candies, Matilde Elk caught COVID in March 2020 from working in close proximity to others on a packing line for her employer, Elk quarantined in her home, where her husband resided. Her husband subsequently caught COVID and died a month later.

Elk and her daughters sought wrongful death damages, including for loss of love and care. Elk claimed her husband’s death results from her employer’s failure to implement adequate safety measures, such as social distancing in the packing line room and restrooms.

Under the California Worker’s Compensation Act, Labor Code §§ 3200-6002, an employer’s liability for an employee’s workplace injury is generally limited to worker’s compensation. California courts had long established that this restriction on workplace injury remedies also applies to injuries collateral to or derivative of a workplace injury. See’s Candies argued that this rule, known as the “derivative injury doctrine,” should therefore limit its remedies to Ms. Elk’s family members to worker’s compensation, rather than open the door to widespread civil liability and remedies.

The court disagreed with See’s Candies. The court paralleled the circumstances in this case to a 1997 California Supreme Court Case, Snyder v. Michael’s Stores, Inc. (16 Cal. 4th 991) in which a minor with cerebral palsy and other disabling conditions claimed such conditions were a resulting injury of her exposure to toxic levels of carbon monoxide while in utero. This exposure occurred because her mother, while pregnant, was working as an employee at Michael’s when an incident involving carbon monoxide occurred. The Court found that the derivative injury doctrine did not remove the company’s civil liability to the baby because the harm to the baby was not dependent on, or derivative of, the harm to the mother. Rather, the harm to the baby was a result of her own exposure to carbon monoxide as a fetus.

In See’s Candies, the appellate court held that the derivative injury doctrine only applies when the third-party’s injury is derivative of the employee’s injury in the purest sense, meaning the injury to the third-party would not have happened in the absence of the injury to the employee. The court explained that, like the mother in Snyder, Elk merely served as a conduit of a pathogen and whether she had been harmed by the pathogen itself was irrelevant to the claims of her family members.

What Does this Mean for Your Association?
This case serves as a reminder that the best way your Association can protect itself from COVID liability is to follow the applicable governmental orders designed to help prevent the spread of COVID. As we all know, these orders change from time to time.

If you have any questions regarding the current orders or how to implement them, please contact us. We are here to help!