The Defense Base Act
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From the U.S. Department of Labor:
A person who does any of the following activities is covered under the Defense Base Act:
1. Work for private employers on U.S. military bases or on any lands used by the U.S. for military purposes outside of the United States, including those in U.S. Territories and possessions;
2. Work on public work* contracts with any U.S. government agency, including construction and service contracts in connection with national defense or with war activities outside the United States;
3. Work on contracts approved and funded by the U.S. under the Foreign Assistance Act, generally providing for cash sale of military equipment, materials, and services to its allies, if the contract is performed outside of the United States;
4. Work for American employers providing welfare or similar services outside of the United States for the benefit of the Armed Forces, e.g. the United Service Organizations (USO).
If any one of the above criteria is met, all employees engaged in such employment, regardless of nationality (including U.S. citizens and residents, host country nationals (local hires), and third country nationals (individuals hired from another country to work in the host country)), are covered under the Act.
Neither the length of the contract nor the length of employment affect coverage.
The Defense Base Act applies regardless of whether the employer is U.S. or foreign based.
*The term "public work" is defined as any fixed improvement or any project, whether or not fixed, involving construction, alteration, removal or repair for the public use of the United States or its allies, including but not limited to projects or operations under service contracts and projects in connection with the national defense or with war activities, dredging, harbor improvements, dams, roadways, and housing, as well as preparatory and support work at the site or on the project.
Who is not covered under the Defense Base Act?
- A person working under a federal government grant
- A master or member of a crew of any vessel
- Employees subject to the provisions of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act
- Employees engaged in agriculture, domestic service, or any employment that is casual and not in the usual course of the trade, business, or profession of the employer
- Any employee of a contractor or subcontractor who is engaged exclusively in furnishing materials or supplies under his contract
- An independent contractor, which has been judicially interpreted to mean someone who is not substantially an employee of another employer