How Labor Laws Apply to International Business Travel

By Eric Krell Dec 1, 2011
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As director of global mobility for a manufacturing conglomerate that conducts business in roughly 180 countries, United Technologies Corp.’s Tom O’Connor, GPHR, puts his legal degree to use relatively frequently. Specifically, O’Connor monitors laws that apply to his Hartford, Conn.-based company’s mobile professionals, including the U.S. labor laws that should be included in an extended business travel policy—a topic he covers as a program instructor for the GPHR certification preparation course.

Although U.S. laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act do not apply to U.S. citizens working in other countries, O’Connor points to at least three laws that do apply under some circumstances:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

For example, Section 109 of the Civil Rights Act, which was added as an amendment in 1991, extends application of this act beyond the United States—a directive that makes the law “extraterritorial,” or applicable to U.S. citizens when they work outside the country. The other two laws are also extraterritorial. O’Connor points out, with respect to Title VII in particular, that these laws would not apply if they are found to violate a law within the country where the U.S. company’s workplace is located.

O’Connor advises mobility professionals and HR professionals responsible for travel to bone up on the applicability of these three acts overseas. “Employees within the United States are rather attuned and aware of those acts and are familiar with what they provide and call for,” he says. “However, when they go overseas, even for a short period of time, employees may not know what to do when, for example, an incident related to something under Title VII occurs.”

The author is a business writer based in Austin, Texas, who covers human resource, finance and social marketing issues.

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