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Canada: Intl. non-binding norms are setting standard for claims against companies operating overseas

Author: John Kloosterman, Sari Springer, Trent Sutton & Lavanga Wijekoon, Littler, on JD Supra, Published on: 18 September 2015

“In Canada, Foreign Workers Seek to Use International Norms as the Standard of Care in Negligence Claims Against Multinationals Operating Overseas”, 16 Sep 2015

Non-Canadian workers are increasingly suing their employers in Canadian courts for human rights violations allegedly committed outside Canada by the companies themselves or by other entities in their supply chains…These claims rest on a theory that international norms such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights form a standard of care that, when violated, constitutes actionable negligence.  These "norms" were previously regarded as nonbinding “soft law,” but the Canadian developments could transform them into binding “hard law” enforceable through awards of civil damages…[T]hese developments emphasize the importance of proper supply chain management…Striking the appropriate balance between appropriate due diligence and potentially exposing the employer to liability such as those facing companies in the Canadian courts…is a complex…and risk-specific exercise.  These issues can only be handled effectively if the company dedicates itself to building or refining its own human rights infrastructure to identify and address these issues. [Refers to Hudbay Minerals, Loblaw Companies, Nevsun, Shell, Tahoe Resources] [Refers to Hudbay Minerals lawsuits (re Guatemala)Nevsun lawsuit (re Bisha mine, Eritrea); Shell lawsuit (re Nigeria - Kiobel & Wiwa); Tahoe Resources lawsuit (re Guatemala)]

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Related companies: Hudbay Minerals Loblaw Companies Nevsun Shell Tahoe Resources (part of Pan American Silver)