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.
Employees should be on their guard when contemplating a secondment or assignment agreement and ensure that they understand through counsel what law applies and where a dispute can be adjudicated. On January 14, the Second Circuit in Martinez v. Bloomberg LP affirmed the dismissal of an employee's discrimination claims for improper venue, underscoring the enforceability - and importance - of international forum selection and choice of law clauses in cross-border employment agreements. The court held that an American employee's discrimination claims could only be adjudicated in London under English law, as his employment agreement prescribed.
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.
In the past few years China has taken steps in its legislation that have made it more expensive for foreign employers and employees to do business there. The passing of the new PRC Social Insurance Law, which took effect on July 1, 2011 is just one of those steps. The new PRC Social Insurance Law requires expatriates working in China to pay a heavy tax burden to ensure that all employees in the PRC are insured with health and welfare benefits. However, since most international assignments do not last longer than an average of three years, these foreign employees may never reap the benefits of this insurance.