Global HR Hot Topic - September 2013: Cross-Border Age Discrimination Compliance

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Multinationals have to comply with discrimination laws across their worldwide operations. And multinationals certainly need to comply with their own internal equal employment opportunity (EEO) policies that they impose globally. To meet their global EEO compliance obligations, probably all major American-headquartered multinationals have launched cross-jurisdictional anti-discrimination compliance initiatives of one sort or another, such as global discrimination/harassment policies and code of conduct provisions, or global training modules on discrimination, harassment and diversity.

For an American-headquartered multinational, often the toughest specific issue in crafting any international EEO compliance initiative is figuring out what to do about age discrimination. US multinationals’ cross-jurisdictional EEO provisions tend to prohibit discrimination and harassment (and sometimes promote diversity) based on specific lists of protected traits, usually including gender, race, national origin, religion, disability—and age. While listing most of these traits in a multinational’s cross-border EEO initiative raises few problems, the mere mention of the three-letter word “age” in a global anti discrimination provision causes tough problems that too many American multinationals overlook.

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