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In France, Fired For Writing To MP Against 3 Strikes 379

Posted by kdawson
from the nous-sommes-desolees dept.
neurone333 sends along the cause célèbre of the moment in France: a Web executive working for TF1, Europe's largest TV network, sends an email to his Member of Parliament opposing the government's "three strikes and you're out" proposal, known as Hadopi. His MP forwards the email to the minister backing Hadopi, who forwards it to TF1. The author of the email, Jérôme Bourreau-Guggenheim, is called into his boss's office and shown an exact copy of his email. Soon he receives a letter saying he is fired for "strong differences with the [company's] strategy" — in a private email sent from a private (gmail) address. French corporations and government are entangled in ways that Americans might find unfamiliar. Hit the link below for some background on the ties between TF1 and the Sarkozy government.

The Irish times has an explanation for the incestuous relationship between his government and TF1: "TF1's owner, the construction billionaire Martin Bouygues, is godfather to Mr Sarkozy's youngest son, Louis. Mr. Bouygues suggested to Mr. Sarkozy that he ought to ban advertising on TF1's rival stations in the public sector, which was done in January. Laurent Solly, who was deputy director of Mr. Sarkozy's presidential campaign, is now number two at TF1. Last year, TF1 sacked Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, the station's star presenter for the previous 21 years. Poivre had angered Mr Sarkozy by saying he 'acted like a little boy' at a G8 summit. He was replaced by Laurence Ferrari. Mr. Sarkozy reportedly told Mr. Bouygues he wanted to see the young blond on the news."
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In France, Fired For Writing To MP Against 3 Strikes

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  • by rarel (697734) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @08:14AM (#27895757) Homepage

    Now the question is under French law can he sue? If he can, the next question is will it make him less employable suing an ex-employer?

    He absolutely can sue. There's a special court for employer/employee disagreements called the Prudhommes, and he will probably sue TF1 for wrongful termination.

    I don't know much about law myself, but his lawyers should have a field day with this. He would have to screw up the case royally to lose it: It was a private email address and a private communication which his employer should never have heard about, and secondly, it is forbidden by law to fire someone on political grounds in France.

    In theory this shouldn't affect his future professionally, however seeing how the world works, I'm not so sure.

  • by Carewolf (581105) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @08:37AM (#27895867) Homepage

    It is not a UN document. The human rights are enforced by the human rights court in Haag. They are pretty well enforced in all countries that have signed them. It can even override the supreme court in the signing countries.

    Note, the US have not signed the human rights declaration since the US disagrees with human right number 1: The right to live, AND with the concept of a foreign court that can override the government.

  • by jolorant (1366065) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @08:42AM (#27895881)

    Just like in any other european country, this lay-off is most certainly illegal and can be appealed by the email's author. That's what labor law is there for.

    Of course people got sacked for expressing opposing opinions long before the internet existed. French roots of labor law and freedom of speech date back to the revolution in 1789, UK workers have already fought for those in the 16th century, in Germany those rights have existed before the third reich since the 1849 revolution.

    This is not really a "your rights online" article, but should be tagged "your rights in capitalism" - you have them, so use them.

  • by nosferatu1001 (264446) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @08:46AM (#27895905)

    Except that ECHR, which ratifies the UN UDHC in 99% of areas, HAS been incorporated into all EU member states law. This does make it illegial to discriminate on basis of political expression.

    They government also broke the french DPA (no doubt, it is again similar to UK law) by forwarding on the email, which was by default considered private.

    Prediction: lawyers have complete field day suing the employer for large, large amounts of money.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:42AM (#27896191)

    Now the question is under French law can he sue? If he can, the next question is will it make him less employable suing an ex-employer?

    Yes, he can sue his employer. In France you need to have a real motive and some element to support your decision before firring an employer under CDI ( unlimited in time contract ).

    TF1 will regret it, because they will probably lose and will be asked how they get this e-mail ( violation of correspondence privacy ) and some politician will probably be under the fan when the s... hit it.

    In any case it's bad for the government and the three strike law project. They gave us a martyr even before the law actually passed.

    P.S. Sorry for the poor English, i'm another French fagot on /.
     

  • by Alarash (746254) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:47AM (#27896227)
    I read an interview of the MP in question. She said that he never explicitly asked for this correspondence to be considered 'private'. Apparently by default the (e-)mails sent to MPs are considered 'public'. She also said that his letter was well constructed and contained good arguments, so she forwarded it to the Minister backing the bill to "challenge" her (more like to give her some time to come up with plausible counter-arguments). Then it found its way to TF1 HQ for some reasons.
  • European Law (Score:4, Informative)

    by Roger W Moore (538166) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @10:18AM (#27896403) Journal
    Even if it is not illegal under French law it almost certainly is something you could take to the European court of human rights since EU law takes precedence over national laws.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2009 @10:22AM (#27896423)

    How is it any different?

    Because EU countries don't have "at-will" employment as you have described.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @10:33AM (#27896489) Journal

    The founding fathers were not atheists. They were nearly-all Protestant, with a few being Deist (believed in God but not church doctrine). Don't spread mythology about them being atheists.

  • by BobTheLawyer (692026) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @10:58AM (#27896735)

    You are confusing the European Court of Human Rights (relevant to this case, irrelevant to the USA) with the International Criminal Court (which the US hasn't signed up to but which is irrelevant to this case)

  • WRONG-O! (Score:5, Informative)

    by mmell (832646) <mmell@hotmail.com> on Sunday May 10, 2009 @11:13AM (#27896841)
    Obama didn't fire anybody at General Motors.

    What he did was to make it plain that General Motors would not be considered for further TARP funding if they continued to utilize the services of the CEO who bankrupted the company in the first placed.

    Perfectly acceptable here in the United States. Note that there has not been a popular revolt or backlash against this. Evidently, President Obama's action in causing GM to ditch their loser of a CEO was (apparently) neither illegal nor immoral in the opinion of the majority of United States citizens.

    (Incidentally, until recently I was a Republican. I actively disapprove of many of the things our current President advocates. This particular example isn't one of them)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2009 @11:22AM (#27896897)

    What's your friend describe is a "mise au placard".

    "Constructive dismissal" in English, and it's also illegal. Employees have successfully proven they were essentially forced to quit because the company they worked for made things difficult for them.

    It's also important to remember that "fired" has a specific meaning: if you are fired from your job, you are dismissed for breach of contract. This (usually) requires your employer to go through very specific steps before they can fire you, and you can only be fired for specific things. You do not get any severance pay or notice period if you are fired. Being "made redundant" is different: the company you work for is reducing it's workforce and your position it no longer required. You are entitled to a notice period, or payment in lieu or notice, and severance pay.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2009 @11:31AM (#27896953)

    Just a minor...quibble:

    I realize a lot of people--including the government would like to make the claim that if the US signed the relevant treaties, they would be valid--and the constitution does grant the executive branch the power to make binding treaties. But joining the human rights declaration would be in direct violation of the supremacy clause--stating that the constitution is the supreme law of the land--and probably a few others that instantiate the supreme court.

    It wouldn't take a treaty to go by the human rights declaration--it would take the ratification of a constitutional amendment (and one in which the states lose rights at that). Good luck getting the US to ratify anything giving any foreign court power over them...

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @11:31AM (#27896957) Journal

    We have both of the same in America. In the US it's called constructive discharge and in some states, if it can be shown, the employee still gets the unemployment benefits and the employer's rates still go up. In all US states, if it can be linked to one of the discrimination bans provided by law, you can sue too.

    Most of the states in the US are "at will" which means you can be fired for no good/any reason at all. If it's not a good reason or not the fault of the employee, then you get an unemployment compensation package that the state administers. Generally it's two thirds of your average salary over the last six month paid in bi-weekly payments until you find another job or a year or something which ever comes first.

    In companies that have unions, it starts getting difficult to fire people because the union will back them and you end up with worthless people who know they won't lose their jobs if they do the bare minimum. I worked with such a person when I was 18 at a local factory for the summer. We got paid $12 an hour plus one half cent for every 100 sets of product put out (glassware) with no defects. On the days I had to work with the guy I mentioned, my line was lucky to put out 3500-4000 sets in an 8 hour shift with a half hour lunch. On the days without him, the line could produce 5000-7000 sets. That's a piece work difference of around $20 per day extra when he worked compared to $25-35 per day when he was off. I ended up getting fired because the slacker reported me for sweeping the cardboard scraps up around my work station and evidently, that "took a job from another union member" even though no one had come around all day long to do it. Well, I actually got fired for cussing out the Shop Steward as he was yelling at me and the shift foreman had to call security to pull me off him. But that's what started it.

  • by geekboy642 (799087) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @12:02PM (#27897183) Journal

    The important point, which I don't think the GP illustrated clearly, was this:
    The founding fathers had just left a country deeply steeped in religion. They specifically wanted a country where religion didn't affect the government at all. "Congress shall make no law..." is a direct response to the (iirc) Anglican church that was essentially controlled by the king. Anyone with any sense will not claim that the US was intended to be a christian nation, as that is an absolute falsehood.

    And as for your actual post, here's this:

    I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of...Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all." -- Thomas Paine
      "Twenty times in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, "This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!" -- John Adams
    "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution." -- James Madison
    "The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion." -- The 1797 United States Senate, in a treaty signed with Tripoli

    They absolutely were not nearly-all protestant. Most of them were, at the most, Deist, with a few being what would now be called Atheists. Please learn your own history.

  • by bwcbwc (601780) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @02:13PM (#27898283)

    Recent foreign policy notwithstanding, the problem the US has with the "right to live" is that it eliminates the death penalty, not that the government wants to reserve the right to kill, kill, kill.

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @02:53PM (#27898591) Journal

    This is what always amazes me about people with anti-union prejudices. The steward was just pointing out to you that you were doing work for free thereby depriving someone else of employment so you swear and hit him. That's somehow the fault of the lazy slacker unions?

    Well, no. I wasn't doing work for free. I was getting paid by the hour the entire time I stood there. The only difference would be if I was stepping on scraps of cardboard from the boxes and sliding around or not. I felt the area was creating a hazard which is why I grabbed the broom when someone else backed the line up.

    If that means I'm evil and incapable of appreciating unions, then I guess I'm guilty. However, I think it makes more of a statement about the union then it does me. I don't think anyone in any job should be reprimanded for taking the time to clear hazards away from the work area and attempt to maintain a safe working environment. It wasn't like I was spring cleaning the entire plant on my day off or anything.

    Also, if employment is "at will" and the firm can fire you for any reason, why do they keep the slackers? Something is missing from that picture.

    The unions force them to keep them by specifying certain provisions in the contracts. A contract with supersede "at will" in the same way that you not obligated to pay me anything unless we have a contract defining terms in which you will pay me. Obviously your not familiar with how unions work. The unions seem to fight to keep the slackers because it requires more people to do the same amount of work which in turn get more union dues for the union. The more union dues paid, the higher the salaries can be and the more political power they can amass due to supporting politicians and so on. Anyways, it's all about power and exerting it. Power over the company, power over the employees, power over the politicians, there is a reason the mob was highly involved with unions throughout their history.

    I recently got appointed to the Executive Committee of our branch (I discovered there was a spare slot so I spoke to one of our reps) so I do have an interest here, but in my experience active union members are actually some of the most committed and hard-working people in any workplace.

    Dude, don't take what I said as an insult over all union workers. I said there was one guy, the entire plant was union if you were there longer then 90 days. The problem is that one guy should have been fired or moved to another position but he wasn't and the union stuck up for him. As I noted with the piece work, I lost 5-15 dollars a day with him being on the line. And yes, that probably lead to all the animosity I had towards the shop steward when he attempted to reprimand me for cleaning my area of tripping hazards.

    Managers like to demonise unions because we embarrass the bad ones and are always campaigning for more pay but, when profits are soaring, of course it's right to ask for more money.

    All the Union shops I have worked in, high supervisor level management directly from the floor. There no real demonization there outside of unrealistic demands being placed on the employer. Take GM for instance, by the time you add up all the befits and pay packages of the union employees, GM was paying roughly two third more per employee then any of their competitors and almost twice as much as Toyota and other foreign manufacturers who set up shop in the US. Then you had the temp labor which the union refused to allow so GM had to pay people to come in and sit in a break room for 8 hours a day instead of hiring temporary labor and laying them off after the work was caught up. And what do we see from all this? We saw people complaining that GM was making SUVs instead of something that people previously didn't want from GM as the reason they are in so much trouble when the economy finally tanked

  • by Kuciwalker (891651) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @03:01PM (#27898657)
    That's not true at all. They didn't want freedom of religion because they'd just left England (many of the colonists set up their own theocracies as soon as they reached America). They wanted freedom of religion because they were all different flavors of Protestant, and didn't want any of the other flavors to be able to persecute them.
  • by cbraescu1 (180267) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @03:01PM (#27898659) Homepage

    I'm not French but I live in France.

    The e-mail author (and most comments here on Slashdot) assumed his e-mail was private correspondence (which is usually the case in French and EU law). However, the e-mail to the MPs is *not* private, since what MPs do, read, communicate is by default public (thus making bribery, unlawful conduct and other potential crimes and misdemeanors at least harder to hide).

    Thus being said, it is clear the MP in cause was not guilty of anything when she redirected the e-mail message to the author of HADOPI law, i.e. the French Ministry of Culture.

    The Ministry of Culture sough to find out why somebody from the TF1, on of the biggest pushers for HADOPI, would push his MP in a different direction than the company he's working for (it's a legitimate question; imagine if a GM welder *publicly* asks for the foreclosure of GM - in such situation there would be nothing wrong for the TARP guys to ask GM what's going on).

    Until here I see no evil.

    Now, TF1 is not selling bricks or clothes. It's selling cultural products and opinions (plus news). Therefore, having a dissenting opinion to the corporate one, in a business of selling opinions & cultural products, clearly incensed TF1 management. On this case, I say they were right.

    BUT, based on their anger, TF1 decided to terminate the employment of this guy. That's something I can't agree, yet in my opinion they should be allowed to do it.

    Now, before being chopped off by the liberal wing of /. (i.e., 99%), let me point it's all a non-issue. In France NOBODY can be fired (not until they do something so terrible it makes news in Afghanistan or Somalia, anyway). Therefore this guy will certainly keep his job at TF1.

    One last thing: the original author mentioned in his "private" e-mail that he's working at TF1 (that's how they were able to finally trace him down). It seems to me he was ready to add his job as a weight to his e-mail, yet when the weight went against himself he was pissed. Doesn't make much sense to me.

  • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:16AM (#27903699)

    - Any public-school science teacher, atheist or not, who wants to tell his students that the Earth is more than 6,000 years old and that Jesus didn't ride dinosaurs can expect to be "inhibited or dissuaded" from doing so, if he's teaching in the wrong part of the country.

    - Yes, Richard Dawkins [scienceblogs.com]

    - All atheists were "demonized" by no less a figure than President G. H. W. Bush. [positiveatheism.org]

    - 53% of the American public would refuse to vote for an atheist [gallup.com] in a presidential election. That's not just "demonization," that's disenfranchisement. Unless you profess a belief in an invisible sky fairy, you have no representation in American government.

    More examples here. [rationalresponders.com]

    Any more questions?

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