According to data from the United States Department of Labor, there are 72 million women ages 16 and over in our country who are currently working or looking for work, accounting for 47 percent of the nation’s total labor force. In many other countries where women are an equally significant and important portion of the workforce, paid family leave is an integral part of encouraging workers to have families and successfully return to the workplace, but when women in the U.S. decide to have children, there is no such federal protection. In today’s modern economy, the discussion of whether the government should expand federally-mandated parental leave is the subject of intense debate.
Executive expatriate or secondment assignments offer career advancement, cultural awareness, and global business perspectives. Like any other work environment, employer-employee disagreements arise, and when issues cannot be resolved amicably, the parties may resort to formal litigation.
But as companies expand, relocate, merge, acquire, restructure, and divest, where to litigate workplace disputes and under what countries’ laws can change, contrary to provisions that many have been spelled out in an executive employment contract. For the expat, understanding enforceability, choice of law, forum, and venue is essential when weighing one’s options for seeking redress in the courtroom.
Choice of Law: Home Country or Host Country?
Every employment agreement should have a provision binding both the employer and expat employee to the specific sovereign law that will be applied if a dispute occurs. Sometimes, a single choice-of-law provision may govern all aspects of the expatriate agreement. In others, different national, state, provincial, or local laws may govern different clauses in the contract. Much depends on the governing law in the host country regarding a particular issue, and under what circumstances the host country will recognize a choice-of-law provision.
The COVID-19 coronavirus doesn’t discriminate between men and women, but the same can’t be said of the pandemic’s impact on the U.S. workforce.
Traditional support for women at work has been drastically reduced, if not eliminated, during the crisis. Women have had to reorient to working from home while balancing family responsibilities, including childcare and home schooling. Admittedly, both male and female parents have had to face these challenges, but women have shouldered a disproportionate share of the burden.
Over the past 25 years, legislators and employers have implemented measures to assist the growing percentage of working women. By exploring early childhood programs, daycare, flexible hours, and job sharing these efforts have encouraged co-parenting, offered assistance to single parents, and created greater work-life balance. The COVID-19 outbreak eliminated these supports, and it’s anyone’s guess when these efforts will resume.
The coronavirus has hit multinational employees hard in every part of the world. U.S. expatriates living abroad and E.U. expats working in the U.S. have been subject to travel bans, embassy closures, shelter-in-place orders, widespread work shutdowns, mass terminations, and furloughs on both sides of the pond and around the globe. New laws and regulations in their home and host countries offer substantive benefits for employees who are forced to work remotely, caring for sick children and family members, or caring for themselves if struck with the COVID-19 virus.
Figuring out if and how these laws apply can be daunting to expatriate workers at all levels. Having legal employment counsel involved in helping to make decisions as well as coordinating the expats’ legal and financial needs with other professionals is key.
Immigration regulations in the U.S. and most of Europe are at a standstill, with no incentive for governments to change the status quo because of the high unemployment rates affecting their own citizens. U.S. embassies in many countries have closed and have stopped processing visas outright.