February 10, 2023

Erika Collins Addresses Application of U.S. Employment Laws Abroad With SHRM

In “When U.S. Employment Laws Apply Abroad and When They Don’t,” international labor and employment partner Erika Collins spoke to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) about when these laws apply “extraterritorially.”

The Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the National Labor Relations Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and state laws have no extraterritorial application, said Collins. “We are fortunate in the U.S. because our laws are quite clear as to when and whether they have extraterritorial application,” she said, while foreign laws often do not address extraterritorial application.

Collins added that non-U.S. citizens generally are not covered in these cases. She stated that the extraterritorial application of anti-discrimination laws does not apply to green card holders working abroad for a U.S. company. Additionally, there is sometimes a conflict between U.S. and non-U.S. law, Collins said, explaining that employers might then invoke the conflicting foreign law defense.

For example, Collins described one case where a company employed helicopter pilots to fly over Mecca. “Saudi Arabian law prohibited the entry of non-Muslims into Mecca under penalty of death,” she noted. “The company in Saudi Arabia accordingly instituted a requirement that all helicopter pilots be Muslim.” Normally, this would have violated Title VII, but in this instance, the company didn’t violate the law because of Saudi Arabian law.

In another case, a company entered a collective bargaining agreement with unions representing employees in Munich, requiring all employees to retire by the age of 65. “The company was not in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act because the agreement was legally enforceable, and breaching the agreement would have violated German law,” Collins stated.

Overall, Collins said that it’s best to have local legal advice available to ensure compliance with non-U.S. labor and employment laws.

The full article is available for SHRM subscribers.

Full Article

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