Five on Friday – Five Recent Developments that We’ve Been Watching Closely

iStock_000011057325XSmallIt’s Friday and time for our latest overview of developments in the field of business and human rights that we’ve been monitoring.

This week’s post includes notice of several new lawsuits regarding human rights concerns in corporate supply chains as well as coverage of the European Court of Justice’s recent decision to strike down the 15-year old “Safe Harbor” agreement allowing companies to self-certify that their data transfers between the United States and Europe are in compliance with E.U. data protection standards.

  • It’s October, a notable fact for those monitoring the progress of the U.K. Modern Slavery Act, previously discussed here. In July, the Government of the United Kingdom announced that it intended to commence the legislation in October, pending appropriate Parliamentary clearances. The Government also intends to publish additional guidance on the legislation. Stay tuned…
  • In early October, the State of California enacted human rights legislation extending the statute of limitations from two to ten years for claims filed on the basis of gross human rights abuses, including acts of genocide, torture, war crimes, and human trafficking. A coalition of human rights groups, including the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, EarthRights International, Oxfam America, and Amnesty International, were in engaged in advocating for the legislation.
  • Speaking of California, the state has become the forum for a wave of new lawsuits alleging that corporate disclosures regarding human rights concerns in their supply chains are misleading. Several new suits were filed in late September. Plaintiffs’ attorneys are relying on California’s consumer protection laws, as well as corporate disclosures made pursuant to disclosure statutes like the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act. The complaints, against companies ranging from Costco to The Hershey Company, have relied on allegations regarding forced labor in the context of both cocoa production in the Ivory Coast and fishing off the coast of Thailand. As noted previously, more litigation is likely as companies are increasingly being held accountable for alleged abuses many tiers down their supply chains.
  • As previously discussed here, in early October, the European Court of Justice issued a decision invalidating the 15-year old “Safe Harbor” agreement between the United States and Europe that allowed companies to self-certify that their data transfers between the Europe and the United States were consistent with E.U. Directive 95/46/EC on the protection of personal data. Negotiations regarding a new agreement are underway. In the meantime, companies must assess the legal and operational risks associated with their handling of the data of E.U. citizens.

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