Wednesday, March 6, 2013

American firm gets hurt by ignoring Dutch law

Fire him at your peril.
Public Domain
For would-be expats eyeing jobs in Europe, you might find yourself wondering what would happen if you moved there and got fired. Would you have to go back? Well, you're probably not going to get fired unless you really, really deserve it.

A perfect example comes from a recent event with a US company in the Netherlands. Though the US firm is unnamed, they had very recently developed a presence in the Netherlands and decided thy were unhappy with the HR manager. So the manager was written up and fired five days later.

The courts awarded the employee 300,000 euros (approximately $390,990 US).

Yes, you read that correctly. While the amount certainly seems excessive, the details are far too scant to know (maybe that's the amount of a bonus which was missed out on or something). In any event, employee relations in Europe are far, far different from what they are in the US. Here's how it works in the US: I don't like the color of your shirt. You're fired.

Most US states are "at will" employment:
[Any] hiring is presumed to be "at will"; that is, the employer is free to discharge individuals "for good cause, or bad cause, or no cause at all," and the employee is equally free to quit, strike, or otherwise cease work.
Obviously, this is not an equal situation and in Europe, it's a bit absurd. If you land a job in Europe, you're safe (relative to how you might be treated in the US).

As a general rule, if you want to fire someone in Europe you'll need to have a paper trail documenting why you're firing someone. You need to be able to show cause and except for exceptional cases (e.g., theft), you need to show that you tried to work with the employee to resolve the situation. Naturally this is a gross generalization because there are many countries in Europe and many different sets of laws, but it seems to hold true in the various countries I've lived in or read about.

And for those who assume that these lazy socialists workers will just take advantage of their poor employers, I beg to differ. There's no safety net in the US and one wrong step can leave you unemployed. Sure, you'll probably earn a bit of a higher salary, but if you appreciate quality of life over quantity ... well ... I know I'm on the right side of the pond.