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Managing the Modern Workplace
V&E International Labor & Employment Resources

It’s Time to Get Serious About International Human Rights

Take a look at your company’s website. When you do, is it quickly clear to you that your company is serious about its efforts to avoid violations of international human rights in its operations? If it is not, it is time to get to work on this issue. Governments, courts (legal and those of public opinion), and the markets are steadily showing less tolerance for companies whose operations either actively or through neglect create violations of internationally recognized human rights.

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Activist Shareholders and Labor Issues – Staying Ahead but Staying Honest

A growing number of organizations and institutional investors concerned about international human rights — particularly forced labor or modern slavery — are using their status as shareholders to pressure public companies to take action on these issues. When such pressure is brought to bear, companies are well advised to respond quickly and with precision. Making unsupported statements in a human rights policy can lead to claims by both shareholders and consumers.

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A French Revolution in the World of Human Rights Law

Over the last several years, several countries have taken steps to encourage and, to a lesser degree, compel businesses to deal with human rights and environmental issues within their own organizations and in their supply chains. The UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 is a good example, requiring companies to report their efforts to prevent slavery and human rights trafficking in their supply chains. What started out as non-binding guidance from the United Nations has been made into directly effective “hard law” in an increasing number of countries. The most recent example comes from France, which has imposed on large French companies a new “duty of vigilance” with significant fines for noncompliance. While the law will not go into effect until after review by the country’s Constitutional Council, the new measure signals that the movement toward codification of principles derived from non-binding international guidance is not stopping anytime soon and that enforcement provisions are beginning to get serious.

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One Foot on a Banana Peel

Associating with a group with ties to violence anywhere in the world may now lead to liability here in the United States. Chiquita Brands — the banana and other produce grower and distributor — is being sued in a federal court in Florida by individuals who claim the company associated and conspired with a violent military organization in Colombia. The claim is that Chiquita’s association with the Columbian organization led to the murders of plaintiffs’ family members.

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Thomas H. Wilson

Thomas H. Wilson Partner

Christopher V. Bacon

Christopher V. Bacon Counsel

Sean Becker

Sean Becker Partner

Stephen M. Jacobson

Stephen M. Jacobson Partner

Martin C. Luff

Martin Luff Counsel

Lawrence S. Elbaum Partner