As private membership organizations, chambers must have written membership standards and qualifications – both for individual behaviors and for business/organizational activities – either in their by-laws or a policy statement. In a written policy, a chamber can clearly state expectations of privacy, admittance to membership, termination of membership, non-payment consequences, and use of copyrighted material or website policies. Some chambers have had to make difficult decisions regarding denial of membership or termination of membership. If by-laws or process documents do not have written membership eligibility qualification (and disqualification) statements, a membership challenge will likely lead the chamber to seek legal counsel to set a course of action and resolution.
Chambers may refuse membership to a business if it fails to meet clear and reasonable requirements for membership, such as location within the business area of the chamber or that the applicant be of good reputation and standing. If challenged, this type of refusal is likely to be upheld. However, denying chamber membership to an applicant who otherwise meets membership criteria may raise antitrust or other serious legal issues. Best practice is to have a provision in your bylaws that addresses denying membership and removing a member according to membership standards and qualifications – both for individual behaviors and for business/organizational activities. Any time a potential member is denied, the applicant should be notified of the reason for the refusal and given the opportunity to respond.
Please note: the above is not meant as a substitution for professional legal advice.
For more perspective on this topic by chamber professionals: