Peter A. Steinmeyer, Member of the Firm, and Amy Bharj, Senior Counsel, in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s Chicago office, co-authored an article in SHRM, titled “You Are Excused: Force Majeure and the Workplace in the COVID-19 Era.”

Following is an excerpt:

COVID-19 has changed the workplace. Travel restrictions, shelter-in-place orders and mandatory closures have meant that it is far from business as usual for nearly all employers. The unprecedented events of the last few weeks have forced many employers, facing major business disruptions or closures, to make tough decisions about hiring, layoffs, furloughs and compensation.

Some of these employment decisions may implicate written employment contracts and collective bargaining agreements that contain “force majeure” clauses that excuse performance if certain events should occur. Black's Law Dictionary defines “force majeure” as “an event or effect that can be neither anticipated nor controlled.”

The frequency of force majeure clauses varies by industry. In health care employment agreements, force majeure clauses are more common because disaster planning is particularly prevalent in the healthcare industry. Other industries may follow suit in the wake of this pandemic.

Jump to Page

Privacy Preference Center

When you visit any website, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. This information might be about you, your preferences or your device and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to. The information does not usually directly identify you, but it can give you a more personalized web experience. Because we respect your right to privacy, you can choose not to allow some types of cookies. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings. However, blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer.

Strictly Necessary Cookies

These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems. They are usually only set in response to actions made by you which amount to a request for services, such as setting your privacy preferences, logging in or filling in forms. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not then work. These cookies do not store any personally identifiable information.

Performance Cookies

These cookies allow us to count visits and traffic sources so we can measure and improve the performance of our site. They help us to know which pages are the most and least popular and see how visitors move around the site. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.