FordHarrison

As management-side labor and employment lawyers who provide advice and counsel with respect to global labor and employment law issues, we are often asked by both U.S. and foreign companies to help them work through international employment law matters. Unfortunately, employment law issues are often not considered at an early stage when the client is making international business decisions. As a result, the decisions fail to take into account that the clients’ actions that pass legal muster in one nation may be entirely forbidden in another, or that requirements may be substantially different in the foreign jurisdiction. For example, what may be an efficient way of solving an employment issue in the U.S. may be very costly and time-consuming abroad, or hiring and termination requirements in a foreign country may not be required in the U.S. Finally, cultural differences can play a meaningful role when considering the appropriate course of dealing with present and future employees.

These challenges are surmountable if approached correctly. Whether providing advice on day-to-day international human resource issues or helping manage large-scale, multi-country employment projects, there are four simple steps that employment lawyers can and should follow to effectively help their clients navigate international employment law issues.

1. Educate the Client.


As the Holiday Inn advertisement says, “The best surprise is no surprise.” Once your client advises you of a proposed course of action, you must be in a position to identify the unique issues posed in the relevant jurisdictions and find solutions.

2. Understand the question.

U.S.-based lawyers must be mindful from the start that U.S. employment laws are often quite different from those of most foreign jurisdictions. Indeed, the U.S. is an outlier with respect to many basic employment law concepts. Gathering the essential tools, documents, facts, research, and resources at the outset of any international employment law matter can make all the difference between a successful outcome and one that is fraught with unintended legal pitfalls and costs.

After gathering the essential information and resources, distill and clarify the issue(s) that you are being asked to manage and deliver on. Take the time to make sure  you understand the question(s) presented and the local laws and terminology. While many lawyers have a tendency to want to quickly provide answers for their clients, few things can be more fatal to effective global employment law management than misinterpreting a concept because a key term got lost in translation.

3. Answer what you can and get efficient local advice if needed.

As time is often of the essence, once you fully understand the matter, provide the client with a preliminary overview of the key labor and employment issues arising out of the client’s proposed actions.

If the matter involves project management that will be of an extended duration, track progress in a user-friendly database and set realistic key deliverable dates that you can communicate to the client. You should also be aware of any applicable deadlines for required local government filings.

If the matter involves finding the answer to a day-to-day employment law question in a given country, advise the client that you will revert on the matter as soon as possible and proceed with consulting the relevant research authority. This includes conferring with trusted local counsel with area-specific knowledge.

4. Deliver.

After formulating your work product, assess whether you adequately resolved all of the client’s questions. Determine whether there is any risk to the client associated with your answers. . In doing so, consider the client’s primary country of business, as well as its corporate culture and values.

If all of the above are satisfied, provide your results to the client in a commercially straightforward and culturally appropriate manner. Be sure to observe local laws on attorney-client privilege when delivering your product to the client.

Conclusion

Do not be intimidated. While aspects of international labor and employment law provide many unique challenges to effectively servicing clients abroad, the steps outlined in this article can help you to best manage clients’ international employment law needs and drive results for them.