“Recently, my company was contracted to perform training on a new type of locomotive. I was contracted to perform 1 day of classroom training on systems and equipment (which I flew out and performed), and 1 day of “Hands on” with this new locomotive. However, the connecting railroad did not deliver the locomotive in time, and I was asked to stay an extra 2 days to wait for it. It still did not arrive 2 days later. I then left and flew home. I expected to have to return, since I was already paid in advance, however, their position is that they provided the training and I should return and be paid for traveling expenses only. I maintain that I was there and able and willing to perform service each day and met my obligation, or at least, attempted to, and should be paid my regular rate for my time as well to fly back out, halfway across the country to finish the training. My business partner says that I am obligated to return free of cost to the client, less travel expenses, and I feel that my time is worth paying for since it was not my fault that I was unable to finish the job.
Who is correct from a legal standpoint here, him (and the client) or I? Should I charge them for my time, or take one on the chin and just do it for travel expenses? I do have a business to run (full time training center) so I can’t really afford to give away service for free. What are my legal recourses (if any) and what would you as a professional advise?”
The answer is to look at the wording of your contract with your client. If you didn’t have a written contract, this is exactly the sort of situation that shows you why you need one.
Even if you have a written contract, it’s possible that this sort of situation isn’t covered in it. You’ll want to remedy that. For example, in my own consulting business, my contract tells clients that I bill for every hour I spend on-site, regardless of what I’m doing during that hour, be it sitting in a meeting, teaching a class, waiting for something to happen, etc.
Now, how to solve your current problem? In reality, this is more of a business issue than a legal one. How much do you value this company’s business? If you discuss this with them, you may be able to reach a reasonable and fair compromise, in which they pay you some amount for the time you wasted waiting for them. It’s not reasonable for them to expect you to have spent two days twiddling you thumbs and not be paid for it. It’s also not reasonable for you to charge them the full price for a training session that never got delivered. They are not without some fault here — they should have had things lined up better before getting you on-site — and so if they’re reasonable people you should be able to strike a fair deal that is somewhere between “nothing” and “full price.”
If this came down to a lawsuit, the court would probably try to do exactly that same sort of balancing, weighing the value of your wasted time with the fact that you didn’t actually perform the training. In the end, a court would probably decide you were owed some amount for your time. But unless you can show that you were actually losing money every moment you spent waiting for them, the court probably wouldn’t award you your full rate for that time.
So you need to weigh the business angles and in the meantime amend your standard contract so that in future there will be no ambiguity.