Five On Friday – Five Recent Developments That We've Been Watching Closely - June 1, 2018

Author:Ms Sarah Altschuller
Profession:Foley Hoag LLP

It's Friday and time for another overview of developments in the field of business and human rights that we've been monitoring.

This week's post includes: new insights into the proposed Australia Modern Slavery Act; a new Withhold Release Order prohibiting the import of products produced with Turkmenistan cotton; and the launch of the Investor Alliance for Human Rights.

On May 9, the Government of Australia released a fact sheet with respect to its proposed Modern Slavery Act. The Government has announced that it will introduce the legislation to Parliament in mid-2018 and that the legislation, consistent with the U.K. Modern Slavery Act and the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, will establish a reporting requirement for companies. The fact sheet states that the reporting requirement will: be applicable to a broad range of companies, including foreign companies doing business in Australia; and will have a reporting threshold of $100 million annual consolidated revenue. The reporting requirement will mandate the companies issue reports that cover the following: their structure, operations and supply chains; the potential modern slavery risks in connection with their operations; actions taken to address identified risks; and efforts to assess the effectiveness of their actions. On May 18, U.S. Customs and Border Protection ("CBP") issued a new Withhold Release Order pursuant to the prohibition on the importation of goods made in whole, or in part, with forced labor. The Order covered "all Turkmenistan cotton or products produced in whole or in part with Turkmenistan cotton." CBP has not previously issued such a broadly applicable order. Previous detention orders have generally been specific products produced by particular manufacturers. Notably, the Turkmenistan cotton order was issued two years after several NGOs filed a petition stating that all cotton grown in Turkmenistan is made with forced labor and should not be allowed into the United States. This is the second Withhold Release Order issued by CBP in 2018. On May 21, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, a case that raised the question of whether employers can include class action waivers in the mandatory arbitration agreements that many employers require their employees to sign as a condition of employment. Such...

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