U.S. Citizen Could Not Bring Claims in the U.K.

By Alex Denny, Victoria FitzGerald and Emma Vennesson Oct 15, 2014

In Fuller v United Healthcare Services Inc & Anor UKEAT/0464/13/BA, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) considered whether a U.S. citizen who spent approximately half his time working in the United Kingdom could bring statutory employment claims in the U.K. Employment Tribunal.

Fuller, a U.S. citizen, was employed as a senior executive of United Healthcare Services Inc., a U.S. company. His employment contract provided that it could be terminated “at will” by either party. It did not expressly state which law it was governed by but stated that any employment dispute would be determined by the American Arbitration Association.

Fuller was assigned a role which involved spending half his time in the U.S. and the other half in the U.K. working for a subsidiary of United Healthcare. For cost-saving reasons, United Healthcare terminated both his employment in the U.S. and his assignment in the U.K. Fuller brought U.K. statutory claims of unfair dismissal, whistle-blowing and discrimination.

The EAT found that his employment contract had an “overwhelmingly close connection” with the U.S., primarily because:

  • His employer was a U.S. company.
  • He was paid in U.S. dollars.
  • During his time in the U.K. he lived in rented accommodation paid for by United Healthcare.
  • It was clear taking into account all the circumstances that he had not given up his U.S. base.

As such, his employment was not sufficiently connected with the U.K. to entitle him to bring these claims.

Given that employment law is generally more favorable to employees in the U.K. than in the U.S., it is perhaps not surprising that Fuller tried to bring claims in the U.K. While U.K. courts will consider the day-to-day activities of an employee on an international assignment, they will also review the underlying contractual documents; it is therefore important that non-U.K. employers ensure that such documents do not create any contractual nexus with the U.K.

Alex Denny is a partner, Victoria FitzGerald an associate and Emma Vennesson an associate in Faegre Baker Daniels’ London office.

Copyright 2014 © Faegre Baker Daniels LLP. All rights reserved.

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