Which country's law apply?
June 4, 2013 5:15 AM   Subscribe

Friend working overseas for an USA company.

This friend has been working for many years overseas for an USA company. He gets paid in US$ and his contract reads that in case of termination of employment he will receive severance package contemplated on that overseas country laws (very large settlement is standard on that country, regardless of the reason for termination). The contract doesn't indicate what country courts/ laws will apply in case of dispute.
The company just decided to end my friend's contract and the severance package is not what it suppose to be according to the contract/ the country laws. I know that reading the contract would be the best way to answer this questions but as a general rule, if my friend wants to fight this, should he hire an attorney in the USA or in the country where he has been rendering his services? When the contract doesn't indicating anything, which country's legal regulation applies?
posted by 3dd to Law & Government (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think the first lawyer he hires should be a lawyer in the country where he is filing suit, but I guess it also may be unclear in what country that filing should be done in. Seems like he should talk to a lawyer specializing in employment issues for guidance in this.
posted by thelonius at 5:19 AM on June 4, 2013

He should talk to a lawyer in the country where he's worked and where his contract specifies his severance package will be calculated.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:34 AM on June 4, 2013

Your friend should first contact a lawyer in the country in which he works.
posted by dfriedman at 6:05 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

IANAL, but I deal with international contracts and legal disputes on a regular basis. Which country's laws apply is not something that can readily or automatically be determined. In fact, it will be the first thing that the courts determine if the matter should go to court. If your friend wants to fight to have local law applied to the severance package, he should start with the legal process in that country, with a local lawyer. It may be that the local courts determine that they do not have jurisdiction over the contract and the dispute arising therefrom. There are cases where foreign courts (in this case the US courts) decide on and enforce a judgment based on the laws and legal principles of a foreign country, but that's a rather exceptional, complicated and expensive process.

Your friend may find this discussion of jurisdictional conflict helpful.
posted by drlith at 6:19 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Two of the questions that might matter:
-if your friend has been working in that one overseas country the whole time, or if he goes where is needed.
-if your friend was hired in said country, or if they got transferred there, etc.

Since you say the contract says there's termination in country x, then the lawyer to talk to (not hire, yet) is someone in that country. If they can find a bigger law firm, or one that might have some understanding of American law (or can make a referral to a fellow lawyer who does), that would be best.

PS: the branch of law that deals with this is Conflict of laws, sometimes known as private international law. I would expect any lawyer who is competent in the area would know one of those two terms.

posted by Lemurrhea at 6:19 AM on June 4, 2013

I'm an employment lawyer. This question cannot be answered without reading the actual contract. The key is to contact a US lawyer in the country you are in. Large US law firms have offices in foreign countries. You can go to one of those and ask for a paid consult. It will be worth it.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:14 AM on June 4, 2013

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