Cities around the country have largely reopened and meetings have resumed, for now, which has led many people to evaluate whether they are happy with their current contracts? Specifically, they are analyzing their cancellation clauses, and the provisions required to protect their interests and effectuate their goals with regard to virtual and hybrid meetings.
To help meeting planners navigate legal challenges and other contract issues in 2021 and 2022, Jonathan T. Howe, president and founding partner of Howe & Hutton Ltd., fielded questions during a recent Q&A session sponsored by Northstar Meetings Group.
Discussion topics included: how to modify contracts to make them work in post-pandemic situations; legal issues arising around virtual meetings, including questions of intellectual property, consent forms and privacy; and how all agreements, not just hotel contracts, will require types of clauses going forward.
Howe began with a question regarding pandemic clauses in contracts: what are they and what should they include. He noted that the pandemic triggered many people to assess whether their contracts had clauses that could help them mitigate loss of revenue for them and their clients when expected issues arise that prevent meetings from occurring. Many people who sought to void contracts due to COVID-19 cancellations were fortunate enough to be able to do so without facing liability because of force majeure clauses. Howe prefers to include clauses in contracts that specifically indicate what must or must not occur to release his clients from liability.
He suggested that for short term contracts, parties include provisions that allow them to postpone or cancel an event or renegotiate the terms of the agreement if certain events occur, and establish dates for review to determine if the clause is triggered. Additionally, he noted that due to fluctuating standards, parties should include service levels that hotels or venues are to provide in the contract. For example, if bartenders at an event or turndown service and room service in a hotel are critical to a client, it should be noted in the contract.
Lowe then addressed whether people can require people working a venue or participating in an event to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination, and whether vaccine requirements can be included in contracts. Essentially, parties can impose vaccine requirements for attending events, while the ability to require employees who work at events to be vaccinated varies by state and the venue’s policies. Parties can request that venues advise them of how many of their staff members have been vaccinated.
The session can be viewed here.