The vast majority of attendees were planners, mostly association and corporate with a few independent and government planners sprinkled throughout the standing-room-only session.
During “The Meeting Industry Legal Year in Review” at WEC 2011, Tyra Hilliard, CMP, PhD, JD, detailed important legal issues of the past year (and near future) that affect meeting professionals and, with audience contributions, provided suggestions on how they can avoid hot water.
Unions. One attendee told how the housekeeping and engineering staff at a venue they’d just used for an event distributed a letter to attendees and organizers asking that they never book business with the property again. The letter, however, did not change the planner’s mind—she explained they’d use the brand again.
Hilliard advised planners to keep an eye on the timing of when union contracts end or are due for renegotiation. To protect your business should union disputes arise, add language to contracts specifying at what point in time you can terminate a contract without liability.
Immigration Law. U.S. state governments aren’t always friends of the industry, Hilliard said. It’s not just Arizona—20 states have or are considering similarly controversial immigration laws. Is this worth a meetings boycott? If 20 states have such laws, is it even feasible to boycott them?
One attendee explained that the global diversity department within her company has chosen not to hold meetings in some of these states because, “When you go to these states, you’ve got to have an extra emergency plan to deal with potential problems.”
Hilliard capped the issue with a reminder of the impact meeting professionals can have.
“You guys have the power to make it hurt economically,” she said. “That’s not good for the suppliers or citizens of those states, but it sends a message.”
Bed Bugs. Force majeure? Well, perhaps, but that doesn’t help if you’re already on site. Knowingly filling an infested room could amount to assault, Hilliard said. An attendee added that they’re now including a pest policy in contracts.
Privacy issues, upcoming ADA revisions, trade secrets and sustainability contractual concerns filled out the session, leaving all in attendance with serious, legal food for thought.