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February 2017

Gordon & Rees Partner Brian Scotti Secures Complete Defense Verdict in Breach of Contract and Afghan Labor Law Lawsuit Against a Government Contractor

Washington, D.C. Partner Brian Scotti obtained a complete defense verdict in favor of a large government contractor following a two-day bench trial.

The plaintiff was a former employee of the government contractor who was assigned to work on a U.S. military base in Afghanistan.  Following his termination, the plaintiff initiated a lawsuit in the Fairfax County Circuit Court, Virginia, alleging the government contractor breached his employment agreement and violated Afghan Labor Law by failing to pay him overtime and holiday pay consistent with the law.

The case proceeded to trial and, following the presentation of the plaintiff’s evidence, the Court sustained the contractor’s motion to strike the breach of contract claim. Thereafter, the contractor presented its evidence, which included testimony of the contractor’s director of human resources and vice president of contracts, as well as an expert in Afghan law.  Among other things, the fact witnesses testified that the plaintiff held no Afghan work permit and both the contractor and the plaintiff were exempt from paying taxes to the government of Afghanistan. 

After a lengthy and contentious argument about the admissibility of the expert’s opinion, the Court permitted the expert to testify and offer opinions on the applicability of Afghan law.  The expert, an Afghan attorney, explained the impact of various treaties and bilateral agreements on the U.S. presence in Afghanistan as well as notable differences between the English translation of the Afghan Labor Law and the authoritative Dari version of the law.  Ultimately, the expert opined that the Afghan Labor Law was inapplicable to a U.S. government contractor, working on a U.S. military base, without an Afghan work permit and exempt from Afghan taxes.  After the presentation of the contractor’s case, the Court ruled in favor of the contractor.  This was a significant victory for the contractor as it has hundreds of employees in Afghanistan and there was significant concern of “copycat” lawsuits if there was an adverse result.

Brian A. Scotti