Ethical Implications For Attorneys Involved In Extraterritorial Application Of The Civil Rights Acts

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Howard E. McNier


Legal Ethics, Civil Rights Act, Extraterritorial Application


Globalization of business has increasingly involved American attorneys in an ethical dilemma which is not just academic, but may result in disciplinary action against the attorney. What is counsel to do when it is discovered that overseas employment practices (legal in the foreign country) violate American law? May counsel, citing current case law, ethically advise management that discharge of a troublesome employee may be effected "legally" by simply transferring the employee overseas, then firing her? These ethical issues can be put in sharp focus by reviewing a provision of the 1991 Civil Rights Act (CRA) that extends application of the 1964 CRA to cover American citizens working overseas for American owned or controlled firms. Expansive interpretation of this by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ensnarled over 21,000 overseas businesses with the threat of being sued, in the United States, for employment practices committed outside of the United States.


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