Feb 132008
 

Walter Olson at Point of Law links to an article about someone trying to sue her employer for demoting her after she blew the whistle on their conduct while she was working for them in France. The news from the case is that a US judge decided that, despite the various nations implicated in the matter (Bermudan company, American subsidiary, British employee, French workplace), American whistleblowing law applies to the case and gives her a cause of action to pursue in American courts.

I don’t have enough information to fully analyze the issue, but I wanted to raise a possible related factor not mentioned in the Law.com article. A few weeks ago I attended a CLE event sponsored by the Orrick law firm that discussed the issues faced by American companies when doing business in Europe. At one point the panelists brought up the issue of whistleblowing as an instance when policies that may work for a company’s offices in the United States might not also work for its foreign ones. In the US securities regulations require American companies to establish policies allowing employees to report malfeasant corporate conduct without fear of retribution in effort to protect the shareholding public.

But no matter how great the policy works for its American offices, it can’t just be automatically imposed upon its foreign ones. The rules and cultural norms in these other places may in fact prohibit it. Like in France, where whistleblowing is poorly regarded, and possibly even illegal. Whistleblowing is regarded as snitching, contrary to the spirit of worker solidarity, and harkens back to unpleasant historical memories of collaborations with the Vichy government and the like.
Thus, given the particular nations involved in this case of O’Mahony v. Accenture, I suspect there may be more going on here than necessarily meets the American eye.

 Posted by at 12:20 pm

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