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Court rules non-citizens working for US firms abroad cannot invoke civil rights law

[JURIST] A US federal appeals court has ruled that a non-citizen cannot sue a US corporation for discrimination that allegedly occurred while he was working outside the US. The decision [text, PDF] by the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals [official website] issued on Tuesday is significant because it means non-citizens employed outside the country are not protected by the equal rights provision of Section 1981 [text] of the US Code, as well as being outside the traditional scope of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act [text; EEOC backgrounder].

The case involves a black Connecticut resident named John Ofori-Tenkorang, who accused his employer, American International Group Inc. (AIG) [corporate website], the world's largest insurance company, of discriminating against him based on race both before and after he was sent in 2003 to work temporarily in one of AIG's South African offices [corporate website]. Ofori-Tenkorang maintains that his Section 1981 claims should survive because the "center of gravity" of his employment relationship with AIG was in the US. While the court disagreed with Ofori-Tenkorang on this point, it concluded that US District Judge Denise Cote improperly dismissed some of Ofori-Tenkorang's claims at trial. Judge Jose Cabranes [official profile] wrote:

In categorically concluding that 'the alleged discrimination occurred outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States,' the District Court did not take account of plaintiff's allegation that he was present in the United States when these particular acts of alleged discrimination occurred...In the circumstances presented here, a reasonable jury might conclude that AIG's decision to relocate Ofori to South Africa to work in unfavorable conditions amounted to racial discrimination while Ofori was still 'within the jurisdiction of the United States.'
Reuters has more.

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