The Law Offices of Dawn V. Martin has not been afraid to stand up for the most vulnerable of people in the country or to pave the road in a developing world of international employment. The firm litigated a precedent-setting jurisdictional issue involving both equal employment opportunity law and international law.
Shekoyan v. Sibley International, Inc. On March 15, 2005, Ms. Martin argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit the case of Shekoyan v. Sibley International, 409 F.3d 414 (D.C. Cir. No. 04-7040). Shekoyan was the first case decided by a U.S. Court of Appeals determining whether a permanent legal U.S. resident, awaiting citizenship, is protected by U.S. employment discrimination laws if that employee is sent to abroad, temporarily, by a U.S. employer/government contractor. Mr. Shekoyan, now a naturalized U.S. citizen, was recruited, hired, trained, and supervised in the U.S. while he fulfilled a U.S. government contract abroad for a U.S. corporation doing business internationally. While he was abroad, he maintained his home and his wife, in Washington, D.C., paid U.S. and D.C. taxes, as well as D.C. unemployment insurance. The company had promised him that if he fulfilled the contract abroad, it would have a permanent position for him in D.C. when he returned. After more than a year of indisputably exemplary service, a new supervisor was sent abroad to work with Mr. Shekoyan. The new supervisor harassed him on the basis of his national origin because he was not "a real American," and finally fired him. The company "rubber stamped" the termination and refused to hear or investigate his claims of national origin harassment. The District Court granted summary judgment to Sibley International, Inc. and Mr. Shekoyan appealed.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision. Similar cases in other jurisdictions have resulted in the same holding. Ms. Martin petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review. The case made it as far as conferencing by the Supreme Court, but was ultimately, not one of the few cases selected for review.
It appears that without an amendment to Title VII, legal permanent, taxpaying residents of this country will be sent abroad by U.S. companies (which need their expertise regarding foreign countries) and be unprotected by U.S. law while paying U.S. taxes to support those laws. The Law Offices of Dawn V. Martin would be pleased to work with any groups interested in lobbying Congress for such an amendment so that U.S. employers may no longer discriminate against their U.S. taxpaying employees simply because they have assigned them abroad to perform work for them.
Ms. Martin was able to settle the case with Sibley with respect to Mr. Shekoyan's remaining D.C. Human Rights Law and common law claims of breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims (terms confidential). The Federal District Court judge dismissed the case in federal court, but with leave to re-file his D.C. Superior Court, under D.C. Human Rights Law and common law claims of breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Judge Dixon, of the D.C. Superior Court, granted summary judgment to Sibley on these claims and Ms. Martin appealed. During the appellate process, the Court ordered mediation between the parties, which resulted in settlement. Although Ms. Martin was able to obtain some relief for Mr. Shekoyan personally, the precedent set by the courts in this case is bleak for future litigants.
Shekoyan is cited in numerous other cases, as well as in treatises and law review articles. Legal commentators have typically taken the position that the case was wrongly decided. Again, this case highlights the need for an amendment to Title VII.