Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio October
The Law & the Planner
By Jonathan T. Howe,
CONTRACT BASICS FOR INDEPENDENTS
Don’t be outsmarted when you work as a third party; put
everything in writing
In recent years, the independent-planner sector
of the meetings industry has shown the greatest growth. If you have
recently made the leap into this sector from an association or
corporate position, or if you are thinking about doing so, here are
a few important considerations. Many independent planners commonly
encounter problems in two areas: getting paid and determining how
much control they have over the event they are planning. These
issues, along with a few other critical points, need to be spelled
out precisely in the contract.
The contract serves as a blueprint of the independent planner’s
relationship with her client. It will define authority, what is
expected of the planner, and how and when she will be paid. Here
are the essentials for independent contractors’ agreements.
The parties. Define each of them clearly.
State the obvious. The contract should declare
that you or your firm is an independent contractor.
Add a job description. Make sure the contract
says what is to be accomplished, but not how it is to be done. The
goal should be well defined, and the planner should have the
freedom to achieve it her way.
Define the compensation. Here it is preferable
to arrange a set fee instead of an hourly rate. An hourly wage
gives the impression that the hiring company has control over the
time you will be working for it, and you can be viewed as an
employee as opposed to an independent contractor. Include a payment
Some independent planners are paid through a commission from the
hotel that hosts the meeting. If you have arranged to be paid this
way, make sure language to that effect is in both the contract with
your client and the contract with the hotel.
State cancellation terms. Spell them out,
indicating how you will be compensated for work that is already
completed. It is imperative that independent contractors have
provisions to protect their rights in the event of a cancellation
by the client.
Take responsibility. An independent contractor
is not an employee of the hiring organization. Therefore, the
contract should state that you or your firm will be responsible for
all taxes, worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance coverage,
etc., relating to you and your employees.
Share responsibility. Generally, an
organization that hires an independent contractor is not liable or
responsible for his errors or omissions. In other words, if the
independent contractor messes up, he is on his own. Having said
that, however, in most situations where legal action is taken, both
the hiring party and the independent will be sued. It is important,
then, to tackle the issue of liability within your contract.
Protect yourself as much as possible by including a provision
that the hiring organization will indemnify you for any errors or
omissions that might create liability for you, and that you will be
named as a co-insured party on general liability and other
insurance policies. Indicate that you must be notified if the
insurance lapses or is canceled.
Question authority. The contract should define
how much authority you will have. Items should include the maximum
dollar amounts you are able to negotiate in contracts before the
client organization has to be asked for approval. Also, spell out
how much leeway you will have in hiring subcontractors, such as
production companies and caterers. Your clients might want some
form of veto power over subcontractors you choose on their
behalf.Jonathan T. Howe, Esq.,
is a senior partner in the Chicago and Washington, D.C., law firm
of Howe & Hutton, Ltd., which specializes in meetings, travel
and hospitality law. Legal questions can be e-mailed to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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