Dream job becomes a Dubai "Debacle"

February 4, 2009 6:12:40 PM PST
A New York couple thought they'd found a dream job deal in Dubai, and now they say it's turned into a Dubai "Debacle." It's a huge trend. Overseas companies are recruiting professionals in the United States. With the job market collapsing here, the lure to go abroad can seem irresistible. But a warning from one couple who gave up everything, and now has nowhere to go.

This is a couple who thought they'd done their homework, researched the overseas company, and even had a contract.

"It's the type of job you dream of and we thought we had it. They just pulled it right out, just pulled the rug right out from under us," Dave MacPhail said.

Their East Side co-apartment is now vacant, their belongings are in storage and they have no jobs.

By now, these two professionals had planned to be settled in the oil-rich Middle Eastern Country of Dubai, located on the Persian Gulf. Dave, an architect who had been laid off from his Manhattan job in February, connected with DAMAC properties, headquartered in Dubai.

"They contacted me through the website called Linked In and asked if I'd be interested in a development position in Dubai," he explained.

Back in April, Dave met with a human resources representative at the Jermiah Essex Hotel where he was interviewing other prospective employees. The meeting went so well that they set up a video conference with the firm's CEO.

In July, he got a contract and claims there were multiple phone calls and emails reassuring him he had the job, including one in mid-September that read, "We expect to receive your visa in about 3 weeks?. Hence, we can look at a start date of second week of October."

"We knew we were taking a gamble, but we had a good faith contract, assurances throughout," Angie Dave MacPhail said.

Angie, who worked in 2 World Financial Center as a marketing executive, gave notice at the end of September and quit after another reassuring e-mail from DAMAC that read, "There is nothing to worry about."

Then came a phone call.

"Basically, they said we have some bad news. We aren't going to bring you over based on all the financial issues that are going on today. That was it. They said they were sorry," Dave MacPhail said.

A DAMAC Spokesman told us in an e-mail statement: "In regard to Mr. MacPhail's application, until such time as the work permit and visa approvals have been issued, the job offer cannot be processed further."

"It gives them the out," international law attorney Rita Dave said after reviewing the contract for us. She noted this language: "And won't be valid if for some unforeseen reason authorities or government authorities rejected his application."

"I knew it was in the contract, but with the reassurance that they were giving it sounded like everything was moving ahead as scheduled," Dave MacPhail said.

Rita Dave said people considering an overseas employer need to protect themselves.

"Make sure you don't sell your home, uproot your family and be ready to travel unless you know for sure you have a start date, unless you have physical documentation," she said.

Some additional tips:

  • If possible, have an employment/labor attorney review the contract.

  • Make sure the start date is specific and EVERYTHING is in writing. Save any correspondence through emails.

  • Is the contract contingent on a work visa? If so, make sure the contract spells out what happens if the visa isn't approved; will you be compensated for any expenses?

  • Don't uproot the family -- have a spouse quit a job or sell the house -- unless the company gives you a start date in writing and you actually have a work visa.

  • Ideally, go ahead of the family and see a paycheck before everyone comes over.

  • Ask if you can talk to other Americans who are working for the company in that country.

  • If something goes wrong, do you have a claim? It depends on the contract language. Even if you think you may have a valid claim, the question would be jurisdiction. In order to file a civil claim in Federal Court, generally the company has to have some kind of "nexus" or legal connection to the U.S., for instance, a U.S. office. If not, you may have trouble getting a court to accept a case against an overseas firm. Case law is very limited since this is a relatively new area.

    Dave MacPhail said he has been unable to call or reach anyone at DAMAC since the news. Angie tried to get her old job back.

    "There's a hiring freeze. My position's gone. It does not exist anymore," she explained.

    The couple has been unable to rent their co-op. Now, almost out of savings, they are living temporarily with relatives.

    "I've never had to deal with this. We could end up losing our house, our apartment because we're hemorrhaging money," Dave said.

    "It's very stressful. You're thinking about it all day long. What am I going to do? Where are we going to end up?" Angie explained.

    We have no way of knowing how many Americans may have run into similar problems with overseas employers, but experts tell us that with our economy the way it is and people looking for jobs anywhere they can find them, this problem could potentially become a major issue.

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