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American employers often require their U.S. domestic staff to execute—that is, to wet-ink sign or to computer mouse-click—acknowledgements that say, in essence, “I have received, and I agree to comply with” an employee handbook, code of conduct, HR policy, work rule, restrictive covenant or compensation/bonus/benefit/equity plan. The purpose of an employee-executed acknowledgement is to reduce the chance some worker somewhere might someday claim ignorance of some employer policy. An acknowledgement can be vital, for example, when an employer needs to discipline someone for violating a rule—or needs to enforce a provision in a benefit plan—that an employee seeks to sidestep.

Locally in the United States, employee-signed acknowledgements have become routine, and collecting them under America’s employment-at-will regime is fairly straightforward. Meanwhile, multinationals increasingly seek to collect employee acknowledgements overseas. But the mechanics for collecting acknowledgements from overseas staff raises challenges, and gets surprisingly complex. Here we discuss the need for, the legal/logistical challenges to, and the compliance strategies for international employee acknowledgements.

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