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United States of America (USA) - Employment Terms and Conditions


You should be fully aware of your employment terms and conditions as American employment law can be very different from that of your home country and your rights may be totally different in the US.

Employment Law

All laws of employment that are set by federal law in the US are regulated by the Department of US Labor.

Employment Law in the US dictates what an employer can pay, how many hours they can expect a person to work and rates of pay for overtime. The federal minimum wage must be adhered to and there are tough penalties for employers who do not abide by these laws.

These laws also apply to expats who are not illegal aliens within the US. Time working is governed by the Wage and Hour Division of the department and there are strict guidelines in place.

A standard working week is 40 hours. Any hours worked after this have to be paid at a rate of time and a half of the hourly rate. There are break times or rest periods of twenty minutes in place for one period of any four sometimes five hours allowed and these must be laid down in employment contracts. Such contracts of employment are legally binding documents for all employers and employees.

Days of the week worked are dependent on the nature of the business. If you are working in the hospitality industry you are more than likely to work split shifts over a working week and these shifts can apply at the weekends. However, the 40-hour week rule still applies and there are still overtime payments to be made. There is, of course, company policy which may differ slightly from the standard working week laws, but they will be legal if the company is regulated within its profession. Those who employ people and do not adhere to laws will be fined heavily by the department and lawsuits are frequent in the US.

Working Benefits

As an expat you will still have rights within your organisation, however, there is no recourse to public funds in terms of maternity pay or sickness pay. This is an arrangement directly with your employer and these will be set out at the job offer stage.

Pension schemes are in place for many companies and most international organisations will have a pension scheme in place for you to contribute to. Your employer will also contribute to your pension scheme. These are benefits offered by companies and can sometimes be offered as part of an employment package.

This website gives useful information for expats whether temporary or permanent workers within the US and employed by companies who operate under US Employment Law.

http://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/working-us

Unions

Unions are a declining body within the US, due to a number of factors. Employment rights have increased as a result of federal law and there are a number of people who feel that unions may have a bad influence in terms of strike action which doesn’t go down well with any company. The financial crisis has also had an impact on union membership particularly with young graduates who have been forced to take lower paid jobs such as waitressing and retail work. Both are industry sectors that are not known for union memberships. With unemployment levels being so high and a general high turnover of staff in many industries, people are not so keen on paying for the membership of unions. There are some still in place for professions such as the medical profession and teaching professions, but unions are definitely declining.

Trial periods and redundancy will be set by your company, particularly if you’re in the US on a working visa. The local rules do not apply to you as an individual; however, the company is still duty-bound by law to adhere to employment law in the area of redundancy.

Further Information

Due to the US and the welcoming approach to foreign workers, there are a number of websites that are full of useful information.

http://www.dol.gov/whd/immigration/index.htm - This website will give you authoritative information on working as a foreigner in the country. It is vital that you are furnished with this information so that you are aware of your rights.


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