Overseas Americans and the EEOC – in short

It says right on the American Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website:

“Overseas & Coverage

American workers employed by U.S. companies overseas enjoy the same broad protections as workers in the U.S. That means protection under the anti-discrimination laws travels with the employee, so long as the employee is a U.S. citizen working for a U.S. company.”

Contrary to what you might conclude, “travels with the employee” does not mean you have to be on assignment from the home office in America. It is simply a cute way of saying that you are covered under federal law with regard to your employment by a U.S. “controlled” company overseas.

“Control” is its own definition, which I’ll take up again some other day. Google my old stuff if you need the material, but the idea is you must substantially meet a test that contains four elements. It’s a test based on labor relations law (union law) and it goes back to a U.S. Supreme Court case called Radio Union. (The “control” test comes out of the case, you need not be a member of a union to have it apply!)

As I said earlier this year, IBM Japan, for one, has been called on this issue of discrimination, particularly by Congress itself in 1991. They were one of the reasons Congress tightened and clarified the law about overseas employment and discrimination.

According to the July 24, 1991 San Jose Mercury News:

Schmidtberger worked for another Japanese employment agency, Recruit U.S.A., which issued a memo to its recruiters stating that IBM-Japan wanted to hire 25 people under age 35, all of Asian descent. Schmidtberger sent a copy of the memo to the EEOC, which fined Recruit U.S.A. $100,000 for discriminatory employment practices.
”First, prospective employees were screened for sex, race and age,” said Schmidtberger, who quit. “Then, they were screened for qualifications.”

Don’t let your American-based company fool you. And this includes places like the U.S.-based dispatch firms, and even ones like Bennesse/Berlitz. (Even though it is owned by a Japanese parent, Berlitz International itself is headquartered in New Jersey.)

And don’t count yourself out ahead of time. Let the EEOC make the determination if you have been discriminated against.

2 thoughts on “Overseas Americans and the EEOC – in short

  1. “so long as the employee is a U.S. citizen working for a U.S. company”

    So native local hires are left over a barrel? Does that make sense?

    1. Chuckers, not exactly. Native local hires (Japanese in Japan) are covered by Japanese national law—one that, on discrimination, is particularly weak for foreigners. Dead letter, really.

      Under the FCN treaty (Friendship, Commerce & Navigation), the U.S. is actually permitted to discriminate in favor of Americans at the executive level, as Japan is allowed to do, and has done, in the United States. I can’t remember the exact name of the case (Quasar?), but I think the judge was Posner.

      What I’m talking about has nothing to do with FCN however. It’s that the American parent company has a responsibility to Americans who are working here in Japan.

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