Tsakos v Government of the United States of America

Date01 février 1972
CourtLabour Court (Switzerland)
Switzerland, Labour Tribunal of Geneva.
Government of The United States of America

State immunity Jurisdictional immunity Contract of employment Exhibition organizer engaged by Mission of foreign State Claim against foreign State for wrongful dismissal Acts iure gestionis and iure imperii The law of Switzerland

Summary: The facts:Tsakos was engaged by the United States Mission to the International Organizations in Geneva for the purpose of organizing an exhibition. A dispute arose and Tsakos brought an action against the United States Government before a Swiss Labour Tribunal, claiming unpaid salary and damages for wrongful dismissal. The United States contended that the Tribunal lacked competence because its Mission was entitled to jurisdictional immunity. Tsakos argued that the contract between the parties was one of private law.

Held:The Tribunal was competent to hear the case.

The Government of the United States had not acted in its capacity as a public power but rather, through an agent, as a private person with a view to the organization of an exhibition. What was at issue was therefore a private law contract in respect of which the United States could not rely on jurisdictional immunity.

The following is a summary of the formal opening paragraph of the judgment:

The plaintiff, Alexander Tsakos, brought an action against the Government of the United States of America represented by the Mission of the United States to the International Organizations in Geneva, for the payment of a total of 14,380 Swiss francs comprising unpaid salary and damages for wrongful dismissal. The defendant did not appear and the Court heard the plaintiff in person and an expert before giving judgment.

The following is the text of the judgment of the Court:

The defendant has entered a plea of lack of jurisdiction based on Article 1(2)(c) of the Law on the Jurisdiction of Labour Tribunals (LJP), maintaining that the United States Mission is immune from jurisdiction and that therefore, in accordance with the above provision, this Tribunal is not competent to hear the present case.

Mr Tsakos refutes this argument and maintains that the contract of employment binding the parties is a private law contract so that, following the present trend in international law, the defendant (and he insists on the fact that he has sued not the United States Mission but the Government of the United States) is not entitled to rely on immunity from jurisdiction and that consequently this...

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