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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi folks,

I'm new to the forum and have done some searching but looks like this question hasn't come up recently (point me in the right direction if that's not the case).

I'm currently considering a move from Europe to the Virginia. The company are helping with an L-1A visa application but appear reluctant to give me an employment contract (Virginia is an 'at will' state). I feel uncomfortable without one and wonder if you had any words of wisdom about whether to make this a deal breaker.

Any resources you can point me in the direction of would also be appreciated.

Grazie mille (thousand thanks)
miva
 

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All employment in the U.S. in every state is "at will" absent a contract, union or otherwise.

Start with this: what do you want? You don't actually want a piece of paper as such. For example, do you simply want your employer to provide relocation assistance (in the form of a straightforward severance payment in some amount, for example) in the event they terminate you while you're working in the United States? If so, ask for that. Don't ask for an "employment contract" as such. Satisfying your requirement(s) may or may not take that precise form. For example, they could agree to provide you now some fixed amount of money for future repatriation expenses. That'd obviously work nicely to satisfy that particular issue, wouldn't it?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Good questions BBCWatcher (me too BTW).

I'm already compiling a relocation (wish) list for negotiation, thus far I've got:
* Shipment of household goods between Italy and USA, delivery to new address, insurance, and up to 3 months of storage fees plus transport of the goods to and from the storage facility
* If the employment relationship ends within 24 months and I leave the USA, the company to cover cost of sending the goods (and me) to Europe
* Short term lease of a car (up to 3 months)
* Temporary accommodation - furnished apartment for up to 3 months
* Tax assistance for the first year i.e. access to a financial advisor for help completing my tax return
* Assistance to get SSN and drivers license
* If/when I sell my apartment in Europe and this takes place during my first 24 months in the USA, document costs (courier, certification etc) associated with sale
* Repatriation costs to the UK if I die while there

None of the above seems to be employment contract related - more what it'll take to get me there - do you agree?

I guess the employment contract would cover notice period, severance etc - the last think I want is to get to the USA, it all goes tits up ;) and I'm left up the creek!
 

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Back when I still lived in the US, employment contracts were very unusual - and generally only for upper level executives with perks like hiring bonuses and golden parachutes. I am told that this has changed to some extent, but unless you're in the executive levels or on a defined term exchange, I wouldn't hold my breath for a formal employment contract in the US.

For the hiring terms - relocation assistance, tax assistance, repatriation in case the job doesn't work out, etc. - you should get an offer of employment, which serves somewhat the same function as a contract, but only for the hiring and early days of employment.

In many US companies, all employees are bound by the conditions of the employee manual or handbook. This is because certain "benefits" (vacation time, medical coverage, etc.) have to be equal for all levels of employee. Other conditions of employment often are never specified - like notice period for quitting a job, which is usually considered to be two weeks in common practice, but legally speaking, is pretty much up for grabs.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks Bev - you and BBCWatcher have helped appease my concerns. Guess this is all par for the course when moving to a different country with rather different employment laws/protection...!
 

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Your list can be collapsed into some amount of money at the start of the assignment and some amount of money at the end (which could be transferred to the start -- you'd have no objection to that). No need to make it complicated. Money given to you to cover those expenses is better than an employer covering those expenses, because then you get to decide. (And there aren't generally tax reasons arguing otherwise with this particular list.)

It would not be reasonable for your employer to pay all (or as much of) your exit costs if you voluntarily leave prematurely. Death is not generally voluntary, though that falls under "medical evacuation," probably (and is fairly standard stuff in an international assignment). Or it might be something covered (in effect) under employer-provided life insurance.

You didn't mention disability coverage. Is that covered adequately?

Anyway, the point is you can reduce this particular set of issues to its essence: money. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hmm, so you're saying I wouldn't be taxed if they gave me $$$ (or will I be and hence have to take that into account and augment the amount by the appropriate tax margin)?

They are a pretty generous employer in terms of benefits. With respect to disability benefit, the only mentioned thus far is that if you're on short term disability, you have to use 40 hours / 5 days of PTO and then the company will pay your salary for another 7 weeks. Didn't ask beyond that, will do now! What's usual?
 

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If they are paying relocation costs to get you over to the US to start work, you may want to ask them to include some sort of provision for repatriation should the job not work out for any reason during the first year or two.

I had this provision in an offer letter when I transferred overseas. Did not need to use it - but ultimately they closed the plant down. Had that happened within my first year it might well have been a good idea to have them on the hook for at least some funding for moving back "home."

In the US, you'll always be taxed on $$ you receive - though there may be ways to "shelter" it. (Example: your relocation costs are deductible for tax purposes, but only in the amount you have invoices for. If you were to get, say, a flat $10,000 to move, and then spend only $8000 in actual moving costs, you'd wind up being taxed on the extra money you were given.)
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks Bev - makes sense. Clearly need to also swot up on 'what things are tax deductible' in preparation for year end ;)
 

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Thanks Bev - makes sense. Clearly need to also swot up on 'what things are tax deductible' in preparation for year end ;)
You've got a while - tax returns for 2015 aren't due until April 15, 2016. Just keep receipts for everything. Although if your employer handles the move, they may do all the work for you on the tax side. As always in the US tax system, there are several choices in how things can be handled.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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If you are considering this as a permanent move, you might also want to think about putting into your "letter of employment" a statement from the company that they will sponsor you for a Green card within xxxx timescale.

Some folks have had to wait years before such sponsorship, while others have obtained their Green cards within 18 months with such a commitment from the company.
 
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Why does the employer refuse to issue an employment contract? In almost 14 years I have not seen a position on exempt level being filled without a legally binding contract.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Apparently they just don't - Virginia is an at will state and that's the rules they follow....
 

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It's the other way round. Virginia doesn't have a 'rule' that there cannot be an employment contract. But there is no rule requiring a contract, and employers use that as an out. They can still put a contract in place if they choose.
 

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Apparently they just don't - Virginia is an at will state and that's the rules they follow....
At will has nothing to do with contracts and contractual law. Personally this refusal sets off red flags but I do not know the company nor your relationship with them.

Contract or no contract, at will or not - employees can be let go, contracts can be rescinded.
 

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In 20 years of working in the US, including many positions at a managerial level in large corporations, I never once had an employment contract. You nearly always had an offer letter, that outlined the initial terms of employment, but other than that, you were bound to the terms and conditions outlined in the employee handbook (or manual) - and those terms could be changed at any time by the employer.

The whole concept of employment contracts was a real eye opener for me when I got to Europe. I don't think things have changed all that much in the last 20 years.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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At will has nothing to do with contracts and contractual law. Personally this refusal sets off red flags but I do not know the company nor your relationship with them.

Contract or no contract, at will or not - employees can be let go, contracts can be rescinded.
I don't know why it would set off red flags. It doesn't for me. No-one I know employed in Virginia has an employment contract. Including my wife, who works for a company of some 5,000 people, none of whom (we are told) has a contract. Although I reckon the CEO does.

If a contract is rescinded for other than cause or breach by either party of a clause of said contract, there are grounds for redress. A person who has a contract is no longer 'at will'. An at will employee has no grounds for redress, unless it can be demonstrated that there has been some form of discrimination - racial for example.
 
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