PM Gone Wrong – The “Offsite”

I got this note from a friend who was on a project that was out of control. This is one example.

I’m really torn about this… There are over 250 hourly contractors on this IT project of about 450 people that are being required to attend three-day offsite meeting by the contracting company. This wouldn’t be a problem except that:

1. The meeting is being held at a campground(not conference center) about 2 1/2 hours’ drive from the primary project job site.
2. Attendees are required to stay at the campground the entire three days of the meeting.
3. Attendees will be sleeping in cabins of 10 to 20 people per single room cabin. (Ever been to summer youth camp?)
4. Hourly contractors will only be paid for 24 hours (8 hours x 3 days) of the 59 compensable (according to Federal labor laws) hours.
5. The project company is requiring attendees to this mandatory meeting to sign waiversthat essentially indemnify the company from any and all liability for injury or damage that may occur during the offsite meeting.

The waiver we are being required to sign are designed to protect the campground from liability should a voluntary attendee at a camp hosted on their site become injured or suffer damages; however, the wording of the indemnity clause includes the terms “sponsor”, “agent”, and “representative” as people indemnified. Since the project company is sponsoring the meeting at the site, and all arrangements for lodging are being made through the company, it could argue that they are acting as sponsors, agents, and/or representatives of the campground in an injury case.

The general feeling that I am getting is that if anyone makes waves about this, they will probably be taken off the project. The very indirect way that questions about pay and timekeeping for the offsite meeting are being discussed shows me that this meeting is probably being presented to the corporate HR and legal departments in such a way that the corporation is allowing it to proceed. If the corporate legal and HR departments are being told that the offsite is voluntary or that all the project workers are salaried employees of either the project company or the primary contractor, they won’t have a problem with either the restriction on billable hours for the contractor or the liability waiver; however, if they knew that the meeting was mandatory for all project workers and that over 250 of them are hourly contractors, they would either require all the hours that attendance is required to be declared billable and any travel time to/from the meeting site in excess of normal travel to the primary contract site to be billable as well. Legal would probably not sign a waiver with the campsite, and would definitely not require that employees and contractors sign them, essentially shutting the meeting down.

If no accidents happen during the offsite, then the only issue is the 35 billable hours that over 250 of us are being cheated of. I can’t even imagine the consequences to the project and its sponsors should an accident happen and one or more of the contractors become injured.