US expat worker seeks to sue Saudi Arabia

Henrichsen Siegel, the US law firm seeking to sue Saudi Arabia on behalf of a former US expatriate worker, will know in March whether or not its case will come to court.

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By  David Ingham Published  January 1, 2004

Henrichsen Siegel, the US law firm seeking to sue Saudi Arabia on behalf of a former US expatriate worker, will know in March whether or not its case will come to court. The class action suit was filed in a US District Court in August 2003 against the government of Saudi Arabia and the General Organisation of Social Insurance (GOSI), on behalf of John W. Peterson, a US citizen who worked in Saudi Arabia for 11 years. Peterson is seeking the return of money that he contributed to a now defunct benefits system, whereby employees would pay 5% of their salary and their employer would pay the equivalent of 8% to the GOSI. According to a statement, Peterson and other expatriates understood that they would receive GOSI benefits upon completion of their contracts and their return to their country of origin. In March 1987, the lawsuit claims, the Saudi government issued a decree excluding non-Saudis from GOSI. In 1990, the year Peterson returned to the USA, he sought to recover the money that had been placed in the GOSI in his name. He received a check for his own contribution of 5% of salary to the GOSI plan, but the remaining 8%, based on the employer’s contribution, was withheld, he claims. Peterson wants his money back and is inviting other US citizens in a similar situation to join the lawsuit. As of late December, when Arabian Business spoke to Eric Siegel, attorney at Henrichsen Siegel, Saudi Arabia had filed to dismiss the case. “They file the motion to dismiss, we have to oppose it, which we’re going to be doing, and they have until, I believe, February 9 to file a reply brief,” Siegel explained. “And then, probably by March, the court will have to decide whether to dismiss the case or not to dismiss the case,” he added. As for how much Henrichsen Siegel is seeking, Siegel says that, “I can’t give you an exact dollar amount. What I can say is that many American citizens who worked in Saudi Arabia contributed money as part of their employment packages and they’re seeking the return of that money.” He says that several thousand people could be in the same situation as Peterson. Since the firm first went public with the lawsuit in August, Siegel says he has received phone calls, “in the hundreds.” Besides its motion to dismiss, Saudi Arabian authorities have said little about the case, according to Siegel.

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