In a decision dated August 10, 2012, a federal court in Manhattan ordered in Martinez v. Bloomberg LP, No. 11 Civ. 7514 (JMF) (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 10, 2012) that an American executive working overseas for Bloomberg LP was obliged to file his employment-discrimination case under British law in a U.K. court. Such cases point to a need for those choosing or assigned to work overseas to obtaining a lawyer’s advice before signing on the dotted line.
On August 10, 2012, Judge Furman, a U.S. District Court Judge in Manhattan ruled that an U.S. expatriate-Mr. Martinez could not bring a discrimination case under the Americans with Disabilities Act-against his employer Bloomberg because he was bound by his 2005 UK employment agreement to bring all disputes under his contract in a UK court under UK law. While the ADA gives standing to U.S. citizens abroad to litigate their claims in the U.S., this decision could potentially cut off claims procedurally at the onset of a case if a contract otherwise obligates the parties to deal with all their employment disputes in a non U.S. forum. The UK forum selection clause in Martinez’s contract, like most forum selection clauses in employment agreements does not provide a carve out for U.S. discrimination claims. While the case may be appealed by the plaintiff, this decision could drastically reduce relief for U.S. citizens who allege discrimination claims under Title VII and other civil rights statutes that have previously given extraterritorial effect to these statutes by Congress. Most important, expatriate employees must be vigilant about seeking employment counsel experienced in negotiating global or cross border agreements to insure their U.S. discrimination claims remain protected during employment or when employment ends.