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Employment Law for Foreigners

Logo for Quora, where Dana Shultz answered a question about U.S. employment law for foreignersThis post is about employment law. It is directed particularly to people from other countries who are not familiar with U.S. employment practices.

It is based on my answer to a Quora question.  Please see What are the most important aspects of American labor law that a foreigner trying to make a terrestrial logistics company in (any state of) the U.S. should take into consideration?

I am providing this answer based on my experience helping dozens of international clients conduct businesses in the U.S.

Here are the most important things for a foreigner to know about U.S. labor and employment law.

Hiring, Management, and Firing
  • Generally, it is easy to hire and fire employees in the U.S. Employment is “at will”.  This is great for employers, especially in comparison to the employment laws of many other developed countries.
  • There is a temptation for startups to misclassify employees as independent contractors to save money. Don’t do it! (For more information, please see my posts about misclassification.)
  • Discriminating against (prospective) employees based on protected classes (race, religion, gender, etc.) is a violation of federal and state laws. Don’t do it!
  • To bring employees on board, you should have a form of at-will offer letter, a Proprietary Information and Inventions Agreement, and an Employee Handbook.
  • Employment of non-U.S. nationals requires the services of an immigration lawyer who specializes in work visas.
  • If you have blue-collar employees, treat them well enough that they have no incentive to join a union. Once they are unionized, at-will employment, and its benefits, are lost.
  • If you need to terminate an individual’s employment, consult with an employment lawyer. You will need help you set the appropriate foundation and process to minimize the likely of a lawsuit.
Employment Law and Record-Keeping
  • If you have just a handful of employees, an accountant can take care of withholding and forwarding payments to governmental entities. If the number of employees grows significantly, you probably will need to use a payroll or similar service.
  • Maintain employment records in accordance with applicable state laws.
  • Post workplace notices in accordance with federal and state laws.

Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law +1 510-547-0545 dana [at] danashultz [dot] com

This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer directly.