The globalization of business activity has resulted in employers from around the world assigning increasing numbers of personnel internationally. The following general guidance is intended to help multinational employers determine their obligations under U.S. equal employment opportunity laws (EEO laws).
Multinational employers that operate in the United States or its territories -- American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands -- are subject to EEO laws to the same extent as U.S. employers, unless the employer is covered by a treaty or other binding international agreement that limits the full applicability of U.S. anti-discrimination laws, such as one that permits the company to prefer its own nationals for certain positions.
Employers that are incorporated or based in the U.S. or are controlled by U.S. companies and that employ U.S. citizens outside the United States or its territories are subject to Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA with respect to those employees. U.S. EEO laws do not apply to non-U.S. citizens outside the U.S. or its territories.
An employer will be considered to be a U.S. employer if it is incorporated or based in the United States or if it has sufficient connections with the United States. This is an individualized factual determination that will be based on the following relevant factors:
U.S. employers are not required to comply with the requirements of Title VII, the ADEA, or the ADA, if adherence to that requirement would violate a law of the country where the workplace is located. For example, an employer would have a "Foreign Laws Defense" for a mandatory retirement policy if the law of the country in which the company is located requires mandatory retirement.
A U.S. employer may not transfer an employee to another country in order to disadvantage the employee because of his/her race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability. For example, an employer may not transfer an older worker to a country with a mandatory retirement age for the purpose of forcing the employee's retirement.
The federal EEO laws enforced by the EEOC are Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Equal Pay Act (EPA). These laws prohibit covered employers from discriminating on the bases of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, and disability. Examples of conduct prohibited include:
Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA prohibit discrimination in all aspects of the employment relationship, including recruitment, hiring, assignment, transfer, firing, layoffs, and other conditions or privileges of employment.
Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA prohibit discrimination in compensation based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, and disability. In addition, the EPA prohibits pay discrimination between men and women who are performing substantially equal work. Although the EPA does not apply outside the United States, such claims are covered by Title VII, which also prohibits discrimination in compensation on the basis of sex.
Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA also prohibit offensive conduct that creates a hostile work environment based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, and disability. Employers are required to take appropriate steps to prevent and correct unlawful harassment and employees are responsible for reporting harassment at an early stage to prevent its escalation.
Title VII, the ADEA, the ADA, and the EPA prohibit employers from retaliating against employees because they have opposed unlawful discrimination or participated in a discrimination related proceeding.
For more detailed information, including a comprehensive discussion of these and other issues, please see:
Training and Outreach
The EEOC engages in widespread training and outreach to educate employees and employers about their rights and responsibilities under the EEO statutes. For information about upcoming programs, please contact an EEOC Outreach Program Coordinator.
This page was last modified on April 28, 2003.
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