Descrimination and/or non-payment of "Incentive Bonuses"

How do I know if I have a valid case?

My employer (a German bank) treats Germans and Americans differently.

There may even be additional discrimination against Jews (such as me - I have examples).

Also, when an employer calls the annual bonus payment an "incentive payment," is there an implicit contract to make the payments?

James Fox 212-310-9986

1 answer  |  asked Sep 9, 2003 08:15 AM [EST]  |  applies to New York

Answers (1)

David M. Lira
National Origin vs. Nationality

Things get tricky when you are dealing with a foreign employer because treaties may come into play that alter how US anti-discrimination law is applied.

Generally, when dealing with a foreign employer, there is a distinction made between nationality and national origin. It is OK to discriminate based on nationality. That is, the foreign employer is free to give preference to, say, the German national over the more qualified US national. However, discrimination based on national origin would still be improper. That is, if we assume two employees are US nationals, but one is of German origin and the other is not, the foreign employer may not discriminate on nothing more than that.

Although all employment relationships are contractual, unless otherwise specifically agreed to by both the employer and employee, all employment relationships are at will, meaning the terms of employment can be changed at any time, for any reason. So, the likelihood is that a bonus program termed "incentive payments" will not create an obligation for the employer to actually pay bonuses. There might be exceptions to this under highly unusual facts that might give rise to what attorneys would call an ERISA plan.

posted by David M. Lira  |  Sep 9, 2003 4:09 PM [EST]

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