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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 syousef (465911) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @08:06AM (#27895711) Journal

    He's better off not working for them if:
    A) They employ such tactics
    B) His beliefs actually do strongly differ with the company's

    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?

    • 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 iris-n (1276146) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:45AM (#27896209)

        He can and will. Here's a better source [ecrans.fr] (in french).

        In a nutshell, his lawyer's case is as the parent said, and quoting her: "This is discrimination, a felony of opinion, it is just scandalous."

        It will be intresting to follow this case. I'd be very happy if someone can do something against TF1.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rtb61 (674572)

          Which makes the whole thing so mind bogglingly stupid. Not only did that idiot executive fire them employee for the wrong reason but the executive in their own bloated self worth gave the unfairly dismissed employee all the evidence required to sue the company for unfair dismissal and of course the attempt by the company to strip away the rights of a citizen and to threaten all other employees of that company with similar action should they ever express an opinion that differs from the policies expressed b

    • by Zumbs (1241138) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @08:18AM (#27895771) Homepage
      I don't know if he can sue, but under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [un.org], which France has ratified, it is illegal to discriminate someone because of their political views.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "They employ such tactics"

      That is how power games are played, in every country. Find ways to undermine opponents. But unfortunately so many of the general public (non-technical) still seem to believe, if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide from political and corporate people. Knowledge is power and power is the ability to manipulate others, even if that means getting someone fired.

    • by Pastis (145655)

      > B) His beliefs actually do strongly differ with the company's

      "keep your friends close but your enemies closer"

      Sometimes one has to change a corporation from the inside.

    • He's better off not working for them if:
      A) They employ such tactics

      Yes, like you're better off not writing your MP if your president happens to be married to a big media activist.

    • by Pig Hogger (10379)

      Now the question is under French law can he sue?

      Oh boy can he sue! yes, and the case is so blatant that he shall not worry about having his job back, with a vengeance. The prud’hommes [wikipedia.org] are gonna have a field day with this!

    • by jabithew (1340853)

      Considering this is how legitimate dissent is treated, this is a good company to divest right now.

      The MP breached his position of trust though, even if it was inadvertent.

  • Unfamiliar? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vintermann (400722) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @08:09AM (#27895729) Homepage

    "French corporations and government are entangled in ways that Americans might find unfamiliar."

    It's not so unheard of outside of France either, believe it or not.

    • Re:Unfamiliar? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2009 @08:25AM (#27895813)

      It is unfamiliar to us because of our godawful press.

    • Re:Unfamiliar? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Whammy666 (589169) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:13AM (#27896031) Homepage
      For a country that has a reputation for socialism, this sounds a lot like fascism.

      BTW, I would have thought that after the telco immunity vote, the bailouts, secret copyright treaties, and other such nonsense that the US would be familiar with corporations being entangled in govt.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MrMr (219533)
        Sarkozy is definitely no socialist, he was more like a soul-mate of Bush and Blair in many respects.
      • BTW, I would have thought that after the telco immunity vote, the bailouts, secret copyright treaties, and other such nonsense that the US would be familiar with corporations being entangled in govt.

        To be fair, he said "Americans might be unfamiliar with", and he's right. This is neither celebrity gossip nor sports results, and is therefore unfamiliar to a depressingly large amount of depressingly large Americans.

        P.S. Drink Brawndo: It's got electrolytes!

    • by JCWDenton (851047)
      Plenty of examples out there of course but here's one involving /.'s old friend, the United Fruit Company. The UFC lobbied the US government to support the 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état

      After the expropriations began in 1953 the UFC began lobbying the U.S. government in an attempt to draw them into their confrontation with Arbenz. The U.S. State Department responded by, amongst other things, successfully seeking approved cuts in economic aid and cuts in trade, with devastating effect to Guatemala, since "

    • "French corporations and government are entangled in ways that Americans might find unfamiliar."

      It's not so unheard of outside of France either, believe it or not.

            We are getting some very educational examples of it right now, in fact.

              Brett

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by netux (806209)

      Ever heard of Haliburton?

    • by alcmaeon (684971)
      LOL, I agree. Only ignorant Americans would find this unfamiliar. If an American knows anything about corporations and his government (not to mention foreign lobbyists), he would find this all to familiar.
  • by ejtttje (673126) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @08:10AM (#27895731) Homepage
    Wow, and I thought our (US) politicians were corrupt... thanks for showing us how it's done, France!
    Maybe we can show your newly unemployed web executive how to be a litigious bastard!
    It's great to share cultural differences, I feel all warm and fuzzy now!
    • Hey, they thanked the US for the inspiration a long time ago!

      Remember, they sent that statue to New York to remind you how much they liked your ideals.

      P.S. The French don't use the Anglo-American Common Law system, so the similarities end here (with regards to litigation).

      .

    • Re:Thanks France! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RiotingPacifist (1228016) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @10:49AM (#27896643)

      What about Halliburton? I'm fairly sure only offering contracts to the company the VP used to be CEO of is much worse than the standard run of the mill corruption! At least the US is still #1 in some things!

  • by srussia (884021) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @08:13AM (#27895753)
    ...freedom fries YOU!
    • by CarpetShark (865376) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @10:14AM (#27896369)

      It's actually quite telling that a country that took a stand so strongly against invading and imposing outside will on a country's freedom is entirely failing at understanding and dealing with the more subtle corruptions of big media and government.

      • It's actually quite telling that a country that took a stand so strongly against invading and imposing outside will on a country's freedom is entirely failing at understanding and dealing with the more subtle corruptions of big media and government.

        All the countries implied in your post have new leaders now, and therefore subtly different behaviors.

        Don't expect something like a country to have a consistent behavior across the board.

        Also, I don't think France was against imposing it's will on other countries for most of its history. In fact, they were a big colonial power back in the day. Don't get me wrong, they did good in refusing to fall for the WMD scam, but don't misrepresent their ideals and motivations either.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2009 @08:16AM (#27895763)

    Time for the French to start sharpening the blades on all the old guillotines - the only suitable punishment for Mr Sarkozy and his cronies is a proper beheading.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2009 @08:41AM (#27895879)
      Mod parent up! (posting as AC because I'm french).
    • by mad flyer (589291) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @08:45AM (#27895895)

      Parent is not flamebait. Parent is unfortunately spot on.

      This president is a shame for France and an embarassment... FOR MANKIND... It's an half drunk idiot with the IQ of a toiletbowl broomstick.

      He played the "small people" card during the campain and now play with all the vulgarity of a new rich the "people" card. The incarnation of the 3B Booze Babes Backchich. He's tightening the immigration law to a point where his parents (who are not French) would not have been allowed to stay. Promoting family value as much as family members. Have an ill informed opinion on everything. The posterchild of the "if i'm here that must be because I'm good for the job". Now ALL the previous governement are remember with nostalgia. This dwarf should not even be a janitor as he might find way to abuse the little power he got on the toilet paper stockpile.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        It could be worse. You could have Silvio Berlusconi as President. Or Gordon Brown.
        • Wow, didn't know Brown was that bad. In America we have something called "no bid contracts" to ensure that government doesn't get too cozy with corporations.

        • by vrmlguy (120854)

          Or George W.

          • by Mashiki (184564)

            Or George W.

            Don't forget that all of these guys are far left of him. Even further left then the democrats. How interesting world politics is.

          • by jabithew (1340853)

            Brown is worse. Even Berlusconi at least has charisma.

            • by jimicus (737525)

              Brown's just as bad as Blair. In fact, given that he was chosen by Blair, given some of the laws that have been passed over the last 12 years and given that most of the current scandal regarding MP expenses unravelling right now has been going on for years, I'd say the entire Labour party are all as bad as each other.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:01AM (#27895995)

        Sarkozy (noun):

        • A malodorous amalgamation of Tony Blair and Silvio Burlusconi
        • The figurehead for US imperialism in France

        Someone was telling me the other day about Sarkozy trying to speak in a working class accent. Similar I guess to Tony Blair favouring Estuary English over received pronunciation. I can't find any articles on it, although I have only searched English language.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Pig Hogger (10379)

        It's an half drunk idiot with the IQ of a toiletbowl broomstick.

        LOL! La balayette à chiottes!

      • This president is a shame for France and an embarassment... FOR MANKIND... It's an half drunk idiot with the IQ of a toiletbowl broomstick.

        You elected Bush Jr?

      • Stop complaining. You don't have to face up to the embarrassment of explaining George W. Bush or Avigdor Lieberman.

  • 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.

  • . . . he only got fired, instead of being shot. In countries with a "State News Agency," The press is just another department of the government anyway. Criticizing the government may be hazardous to your health, but the journalists know that, and would never dare to do so.

    Here it seems to be an indirect "family" relationship, in the Soprano sense of the word, which the poor journalist didn't know about.

    I don't think you'll be hearing much criticism of Sarkozy on TF1 any more.

    • . . . he only got fired, instead of being shot. In countries with a "State News Agency," The press is just another department of the government anyway. Criticizing the government may be hazardous to your health, but the journalists know that, and would never dare to do so.

      Canada sounds MUCH more dangerous in your fantasies than in reality.

  • by Nicolas MONNET (4727) <nicoaltiva@NOsPaM.gmail.com> on Sunday May 10, 2009 @09:07AM (#27896007) Journal

    They fired him for "public statements;" but as far as I can tell, he never made any public statements, he only wrote, privately, to his MP.
    This kind of incident is great for us fighting this law; it produced some more ammos for the opposition in parliament, and it made the gov't look like the assholes they are.
    On top of that, it's proof positive -- if it was ever needed -- of the collusion between the gov't and the major media.

    • 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.
      • I read an interview of the MP in question. She said that he never explicitly asked for this correspondence to be considered 'private'.

        Certainly, but it would be good form to keep the name and address private. If this is indeed the case, I wonder whether we will see a change in this sort of policy?

      • Surely, on this basis, one could argue that all emails sent to and from the MP should become immediately available for anyone to read, cos there public after all...
  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Sunday May 10, 2009 @10:14AM (#27896367) Journal
    How is this any different than in most states in the USA, which have "at-will" employment where an employee can apparently be fired for any reason that isn't illegal?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How is it any different?

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

      • by mark-t (151149)
        That may be true, but that wasn't what I was asking... I was asking how it would be any different in most states in the USA... the apparent fact that it wouldn't, as far as I can see, is what perplexes me with regards to how this story seems to be getting received. I was under the impression (possibly mistakenly) that most americans feel that the world would be much better place if laws that were parallel to their own were practiced by every country... after all, they keep voting for presidents that want
    • Firing someone for political affiliation is illegal even in "at will" states.

      Even the most intrenched of business sell-outs campaign and try to court public opinion, and will act to protect those who support them.

      • by mark-t (151149)
        How this could be seen, really, is that the company has an intended future direction, and this employee's attitude conflicts with that direction... on the company's part, this amounts to them being unable to feel that they can trust this particular employee to follow through with certain tasks that they might want to offer him, and a company can understandably not want to keep an employee around that they feel they can no longer trust. Or is it also illegal to fire an employee who simply happens to say "I
        • by Blakey Rat (99501)

          Or is it also illegal to fire an employee who simply happens to say "I hate my job"?

          No, that is legal, AFAIK. (And why shouldn't it be?)

          This case we're discussing is not that. It's completely different than that. Entirely, utterly, 100%, completely different situation.

          The point you're missing is that the courts almost always side with the employee; if the employee says it's politically-motivated, and the employer says it's an "attitude problem", I can guarantee the courts are going to proceed on the assumpt

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      How is this any different than in most states in the USA, which have "at-will" employment where an employee can apparently be fired for any reason that isn't illegal?

      It's illegal in "at-will" states. Political affiliation is a "protected class" (Federally, actually, not even at the state level), which means you can't base hiring/firing decisions on it. You can't even ask about it during interviews, legally. Yes, even in "at-will" states.

      So... that's how it's different.

      Good job advertising your ignorance, th

  • Do we really know the history of this guy's relationship with his employer and all the issues surrounding his dismissal? Do we [foolishly] think we know?

    Looks like little more than another Those-Stupid-French-People stories. They've been especially popular over the past few years.

    You know...like the French enact unpopular laws in the middle of the night so nobody is awake to stop them. Slashdot story. [slashdot.org] Subsequent Story: Maybe French Not So Stupid [slashdot.org].

    In business meetings over the past few years, I heard numerous

  • They have raised commercial corruption of the government to an art form. Have you not been paying attention for the past 10 years?

  • 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.

"Irrationality is the square root of all evil" -- Douglas Hofstadter

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