Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Firms Told to Avoid Biased Job Customs

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Firms Told to Avoid Biased Job Customs

Article excerpt

Human resources officials of U.S. companies abroad are being told to avoid foreign workplace hiring customs that are illegal in the United States.

Even when they must yield to foreign laws that conflict with U.S. statutes, they are expected to make a fight of it - or run the risk of losing a damage lawsuit brought by an aggrieved job applicant or employee.

On paper, employees of U.S. businesses and their overseas affiliates who are U.S. citizens are shielded by civil rights laws relating to their a ge, race, religion, sex, national origin or disability. In reality, though, personnel managers who back an employee can land in hot water. "If they don't (comply with U.S. law), they run the risk of liability," said attorney Michael Starr of Parker Chapin Flattau & Klimpl in New York, "and if they do, they may wind up doing things which are contrary" to foreign statutes. "The global implications of these laws are not always clear or even uniform throughout the United States" and are "still in the process of developing," Starr added. "Businesses that fail to anticipate these developments may find themselves dragged into U.S. courts with little or no place to hide," he warned. Starr estimated that approximately 21,000 units of 2,000 American transnational companies doing business abroad are affected. To the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "there is a fundamental difference between the customs and practices of a host country and its statutory mandates," Starr said. In an article in The Business Lawyer, an American Bar Association journal, Starr wrote that the EEOC allows transnationals to invoke the so-called foreign law defense "only where compliance with U.S. discrimination laws will lead `inevitably' to a violation of foreign law." For example, Saudi Arabian law mandates beheading of any non-Muslim who flies over the holy city of Mecca - adequate justification, Starr wrote, for a U. …

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