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Employers increasingly work across borders. At the same time, employers must maintain employment and business practices that meet new standards of legal compliance, ethics and transparency. With increasing public scrutiny of employment and business practices, multinational employers face significant challenges.

Labor and employment law can no longer be considered a purely local issue. With the Internet and the global media, business and employment practices that are challenged in an isolated location can reverberate around the globe.

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Global employers devote increasing resources to responding to an array of international concerns. While building their business across borders, global employers work to maintain their reputation and their corporate culture. Although they may face differing and sometimes conflicting laws and regulations, they work to  maintain employment practices that preserve their reputations for being legally compliant and socially responsible.

Littler’s international employment and labor law practice is uniquely qualified to help its multinational clients maneuver through the best of economic times, as well as an unstable economic climate. Making use of its vast resources and depth of expertise, the firm routinely helps global clients adapt to a maze of distinct laws, economic circumstances and customs throughout the world.

Littler’s international practitioners recognize the importance of global compliance and best practices. Our attorneys are fluent in more than 20 languages. They have assisted employers with an array of projects in Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa, the Middle East, South and Central America, as well as Canada and Mexico in North America. We advise major multinational corporations on the full array of labor and employment issues, from managing independent contractors, to litigating and arbitrating cross-border employment claims, drafting executive contracts, assisting with workforce reductions, and assessing and drafting global ethics and data privacy policies.

In addition to advising Fortune Global 500 companies, our practice extends to medium and smaller-sized companies making their first international ventures, or those that are gradually expanding their overseas operations. We assist them in developing the framework for operating abroad with policies for employees in other countries, including both temporary assignments and longer-term expatriate arrangements.

Advising Foreign Employers

Foreign companies with staff in the United States face unique challenges, including numerous federal, state and local labor laws and a fluid, multilayered regulatory environment. Their  distinct workplace culture and countless requirements often leave foreign employers vulnerable to disputes and lawsuits. These companies also have special rights, whether under Friendship, Commerce & Navigation Treaties or common law rights that recognize the special problems of companies who transfer expatriates across borders, and who are required to adapt their workplace to the special demands of U.S. employment laws.

Many of our lawyers have years of experience assisting foreign-based corporations in complying with U.S. laws and regulations and adapting them to their workplace practices.  We provide practical advice and training programs to help foreign companies address every type of labor and employment challenge they may encounter in the United States. These include claims of sexual harassment and discrimination, as well as allegations related to citizenship, ethnicity or national origin.

We draft employment agreements and secondment agreements, customize employee handbooks and policies, provide advice regarding leadership and succession planning for U.S. sites, and also have years of experience litigating when necessary.

Global Network

Key to our success are the professional relationships we have developed over the years with hundreds of lawyers and employers in countries throughout the world. We routinely advise our U.S.-based clients on international issues, utilizing both our own expertise and, if warranted, the expertise of lawyers in other countries.

  • We advise clients throughout Central and South America via our Mexico, Venezuela, Miami, and other offices.
  • Through our affiliate partnership with TransAsia Lawyers, Littler is well-positioned to address clients’ needs in the People’s Republic of China.

With this network of connections, Littler often serves as the single point of contact for our clients’ global labor and employment needs.  We help multinational employers move their employees across borders, comply with employee relations and pension laws, assure the quality of local legal work, and  assist employers with such international issues as overseas privacy laws and the development of global codes of conduct.

Experienced and Versatile Team

We are proud to have some of the leading practitioners of international employment law on our team. Some of our lawyers have served as in-house counsel for major international corporations, while others have practiced employment law in other countries. Still others have assisted U.S.-based companies with cross-border labor issues, including global union corporate campaigns,  international compensation and benefits issues, multi-jurisdiction data privacy projects, and global workforce reductions. Moreover, our team frequently acts as the Adviser to the Employers’ Delegation to the annual International Labour Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Areas in which we provide advice to our international clients include:

  • Global Labor Relations:  As companies expand internationally, labor unions have responded by evolving into global enterprises to challenge employers in multiple jurisdictions.  Unions have extended corporate campaigns to a global scale.  Not only are unions collaborating on a global scale, but they are also utilizing the dispute resolution processes of international organizations, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, to put pressure on employers.  Littler advises employers to respond to global union corporate campaigns, to negotiate international framework agreements that establish a relationship between a multinational company and a trade union at a global level, and represents U.S. multinationals in proceedings before the U.S. National Contact Point of the OECD.
  • Cross-Border Litigation, Arbitration and Discovery:  Multinational companies are increasingly drawn into employment-related claims that involve employees and managers in multiple offices. A European bank may be sued in New York for claims of alleged discrimination based on decisions that originated in the United States. Often, electronic evidence exists in multiple jurisdictions, and may be subject to disclosure in a U.S. litigation.  Also, the application of the attorney-client privilege becomes an issue across borders.  We have significant experience successfully resolving and litigating matters of this nature on behalf of multinational companies and financial services organizations.
  • Works Councils:  Together with our counterparts in other jurisdictions, we advise employers operating in countries that engage works councils to comply with their requirements, including informing and consulting with works councils prior to reductions-in-force, business reorganizations and other significant developments.
  • Codes of Conduct:  To protect a client’s global brand and reputation, we help employers develop corporate codes of conduct, which guide a company’s operations and working arrangements in multiple jurisdictions. Taking into account a country’s local laws, customs and social norms, we advise employers on which guidelines to adopt and how they should be written and implemented.
  • Workforce Management:  We assist employers in managing every aspect of human resources, from recruiting and hiring employees (and, in many instances, transferring them across international borders), to performance development and training, disciplinary actions and terminations. Standard procedures in one country may have far different implications in another, and we advise employers on how to modify their approaches and priorities in an efficient manner to comply with local laws.
  • Data Privacy:  International data protection laws have made the task of managing human resources information across multiple borders even more challenging, with many countries’ Data Protection Agencies enforcing their own comprehensive data privacy laws. Littler has helped multinational corporations understand the international data privacy landscape, adapt to local requirements on processing and transferring personal data, and develop privacy policies that comply with these varying standards. We help employers set up the necessary legal structure for cross-border data transfers.
  • Employment and Transfer Agreements:  Multinational employers frequently devise employment agreements for their local and international staff.  These agreements need to take account of the differing requirements of local laws.  Companies must be sure that provisions which seem normal in their home countries are consistent, as well, with the laws and practices of the country to which executives are assigned or in which they are newly growing their businesses.  We help employers with these differences, which may be legal as well as cultural, but are nevertheless essential.
  • Expatriate Programs:  When an employee is sent on an international assignment, the employer must have an adequate expatriate program to assure that appropriate policies are in place. Our lawyers, working with a global network of advisors, assist employers in tackling tax issues and establishing compensation, benefits, allowances and perquisites for expatriate employees.
  • Transnational Restructuring:  With an increasing number of deals involving multinational transactions, Littler has the team in place to coordinate due diligence on an international scale in deals ranging in size from tens of millions to billions of U.S. dollars.  Countries have different rules that apply to the employees of companies targeted for purchase, the effect of the business transaction on the employment contracts of the employees, and the duty to inform and consult with or to bargain with employee representatives.   Littler can  educate  clients quickly and on a practical level, and coordinate legal advice in multiple foreign jurisdictions. 

Training Resources

A hallmark of Littler’s practice is our highly effective management training program. We train managers from outside the United States to adapt to American laws and human relations expectations. We also help U.S. managers adjust to the laws of other countries, tailoring our courses – in person or online, with an individual or a group –  to suit our clients’ needs.

To complement our training, we have compiled a practical overview of employment and labor law, consisting of basic questions and answers about the workplace laws of other countries. The Littler Mendelson Guide to International Employment and Labor Law is a five-volume set that provides information on the laws and regulations of 60 countries/territories plus the European Union.

Littler also conducts an annual Global Employer Institute for our clients, which features some of our top lawyers, as well as a select group of employment lawyers from around the world discussing the most pressing issues in international employment and labor law.  Attendees report that the program provides, in a single conference, critical insights into global trends as well as an informative introduction to legal concerns and workplace sensitivities before entering a new commercial market.