Ius Gentium

University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows discuss international and comparative legal issues


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The Right Not to Work

Robert Steininger 

In the growing age of globalization and the rise in the use of technology, many have difficulties disconnecting from work. Smartphones have replaced the computer, the newspaper, the telephone, and much more. We are always connected, and that connection is just as tied to our employer as it is to our personal lives. Companies are starting to realize that their employees health and production have been negatively effected. One country has taken the initial steps necessary to reestablish the wall between employees’ personal and work life.[i]

On May 10, 2016, the French government used a constitutional provision to push through the El Khomri law. The law is named after Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri. Many provisions in the law were seen to benefit employers at the expense of employees, and therefore not welcomed by the French people. However, the most well liked article had the employees’ needs in mind. The law went into effect on January 1, 2017, in which France now requires employers to negotiate what rights their employees have to ignore work emails and other forms of communication. While the idea is commendable and its expected effects laudable, the complete lack of an enforceability mechanism in the law is an issue but that does not take away from the effect it can have on employees.

The right not to disconnect requires employers to negotiate what those specific rights would be for their employees, however, if the employer fails to do so, or breaks the terms of that right there is no mechanism to penalize the employer. This leaves employees in an odd place, they have a right but no means to enforce that right. It will be interesting to see if courts will take action if case is brought.

 

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For the rest of the world, however, employees still have to dread whether that vibrating phone is a friend or their employer, which can increase their stress levels. This stress can lead to what experts are calling “digital exhaustion.”[iii] Employers have taken this researched and asked themselves to consider the effect that being tied to your email can have on the overall productivity of that employee. For example, the productivity levels in the United Kingdom are poor not only because U.K. citizens work the longest hours in Europe but also due to the fact that U.K. citizens are biggest users smart devices.[iv] Britons work an average of eight and half hours a day, which equates to 1677 average annual hours with £18.64 hourly productivity.[v] A Luxembourger, by comparison, works about 1643 average annual hours, with £45.71 hourly productivity.[vi]

While the average annual hours are relatively close, the hourly productivity numbers are drastically different. This could be because not only do Britons work longer hours, but also cannot disconnect from work once they leave. Although this study was looking at the number hours worked, it could be interesting to see how many hours Britons work when not on the clock. I suspect the average annual hours would rise and the amount hourly productivity would decrease even more. However, France and England are not the only countries facing this dilemma.

 

steininger_blog1_photo2[vii]

In 2015, a Japanese company, Dentsu, an employee committed suicide after working over 105 overtime hours in a month.[viii] In response, Tokyo’s governor ordered government employees to end their day by 8 PM.[ix] Additionally, Dentsu has since barred workers from putting in more than 65 hours of overtime a month. Japan may need to follow suit with France’s law to help further disconnect their over worked employees.

This issue of needing to disconnect can affect more than the happiness of the employees. In South Korea, employees are working so much that they are not taking time to have families. Thus, in response South Korea’s Ministry of Health introduced a monthly Family Day, where the office lights are turned off at 7 PM to encourage staff either to spend time with their families or to use that time to create a family. The Ministry had the goal of increasing South Korea low birth rate.[x]

  As globalization continues and as we stay more connected than ever, the labor laws of countries need to adapt. Employees are spending all their time increasing the profits of their employer without seeing added benefits for that work. Overall, countries need to realize that their citizenry are not there to be cogs in the machine, but to build their lives as they see fit, which means being able to have lives outside their employment.

Robert Steininger is a third year law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law.  (Candidate for J.D., May 2017).  He holds a Bachelors of Arts in Linguistics with a minor in Japanese from the University at Buffalo – SUNY.  As part of his international law studies, he took part in a winter study abroad program in Curaçao taking classes in European Union Economic law and Comparative Confession law.  He also studied in Japan at Konan University while completing his undergraduate degree. In addition to being a CICL fellow, Robert currently serves as the Volume V Managing Editor for the University of Baltimore’s Journal of International Law and the President of OUT Law.  He is also a Maryland Rule 19-217 Student Attorney with the Immigrant Rights Clinic. He is currently a Law Clerk at the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO.

 

[i] France ‘Right to Disconnect’ Law: Do We Need Rules to Reclaim Personal Time?, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/france-right-disconnect-law-do-we-need-rules-reclaim-personal-n704366

[ii] http://www.cultofmac.com/253917/apples-iphone-repair-guides/.

[iii] Id.

[iv] France ‘Right to Disconnect’ Law: Do We Need Rules To Reclaim Personal Time?

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/france-right-disconnect-law-do-we-need-rules-reclaim-personal-n704366

[v] The Most Productive Countries in the World Also Have the Shortest Work Days, https://www.indy100.com/article/the-most-productive-countries-in-the-world-also-have-the-shortest-work-days–ZJWJ1Vvw8Pb

[vi] Id.

[vii] JAMIE GRILL VIA GETTY IMAGES

[viii] France’s ‘Right to Disconnect’ and 4 Other Countries Trying to Improve Work-Life Balance, http://time.com/4620532/countries-work-life-balance/.

[ix] Id.

[x] Id.


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How the Scots Dodged a Bullet By Voting “No”

Andres Meraz

On September 18th almost 4.3 million Scots took to the polls to decide their nations future. On the ballot was a very simple yet powerful question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” After two years of campaigning by supporters of both sides, the Scots decided against leaving the United Kingdom. A continued alliance with the rest of the UK guarantees a much brighter future for Scotland, especially if the UK Parliament stands true to their promise to devolve further power to the Scots.

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The loudest voice in support of an independent Scotland was the “Yes Scotland” campaign group while “Better Together” led the charge in campaigning against independence. Many notable figures chimed in on the debate including President Barack Obama and former president, Bill Clinton, both supporting the status quo.

The “no” campaigners cited uncertainty in how an independent Scotland would address various issues. Among those issues were Agricultural subsidy payments from the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy. Some Scots feared that becoming an independent state would reduce their bargaining power in obtaining these funds as opposed to the strong, established bargaining power of the UK. These voters also feared that becoming a new EU member state could mean that these payments would be phased in, as that has been the case with other new EU member states. “Yes” supporters, on the other hand, believed that an independent Scotland could mean greater agricultural subsidies because the allocation of funds would be decided by an independent Scotland and not the UK.

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Another important issue that divided voters was currency. “No” voters feared that an independent Scotland would lose the ability to use the Pound Sterling, as it would have been unlikely that the UK would have agreed to further keep the currency union. The possible options could have been joining the Eurozone or establishing an independent Scottish currency. Both options presented problems. Scotland’s major trading partner is the UK and a change in currency could have meant transaction charges that could hurt businesses on both sides. Adopting the euro would also be problematic; as it would likely take time before an independent Scotland could join the European Union.

Perhaps the biggest issue causing the divide between the “yes” and “no” voters was government revenue and expenditures. “Yes” voters believed that Scotland would be better off if they used their own revenue (mainly from North Sea oil) to cover their own expenses. “Yes” voters have grown disillusioned with London’s budget decisions believing that their taxes were being misspent by the UK’s parliament. Those who opposed independence feared a dwindling oil reserve along with the instability of oil prices and believed that a continued union would mean economic stability.

In the end, Scotland will remain a part of the United Kingdom, at least until the next referendum. Regardless of this outcome, Scotland will likely be divided by this issue for some time, as the supporters of independence were very close to succeeding. 55% of voters (2,001,926 ) voted “no” while 44.7% (1,617,989) voted “yes”. This referendum was also of great significance to other states that seek independence such as Catalonia, who stated that they saw it as a model for a future vote to secede from Spain.

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While an independent Scotland may have made many Mel Gibson fans happy, it seems the Scots likely dodged a bullet by remaining a part of the UK.

Andres Meraz is a third-year law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law with a concentration in Private International Law. He graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park where he received a B.A. in Philosophy with a minor in Government and Political Theory. While a student at UB Law, Andres spent the summer before his 2L year studying comparative family law and comparative environmental law at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. During the 2014 winter intersession, Andres will participate in UB Law’s 13th Annual Program in Comparative and International Law in Curaçao, hosted by the University of Curaçao.

In addition to being a CICL student fellow, Andres currently serves as the Outreach & Technology Editor for the University of Baltimore Journal of International Law. He is also the current president of UB Law’s chapter of Phi Delta Phi ( ΦΔΦ) International Legal Honor Society, and has also recently worked as a Law Scholar for first year law students.

 


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National Security Outweighs Travel Rights: The Confiscation of Passports as a Necessary Response to Increased Terrorist Threats in the U.K.

Natalie Krajinovic

The recent conflicts in Syria and Iraq have had a substantial impact on the domestic policy of foreign nations. It was recently announced that the U.K. has raised its terror level threat to “substantial” following these conflicts.[1]  Specifically, British Prime Minister David Cameron has voiced his intent to enforce new legislation that would make it easier for U.K. authorities to confiscate passports from individuals who are travelling abroad to fight in the conflicts.[2] These temporary powers granted to officials would involve powers to seize the passports of British nationals fighting in the Middle East who are attempting to return to the U.K. to conduct terrorist operations.[3]

Under the Royal Prerogative, U.K. authorities already have the power to confiscate an individual’s passport if it is in the public interest to stop that individual from travelling.[4] Passport confiscations have occurred twenty three (23) times since April 2013 in order to prevent individuals from travelling abroad for alleged terrorist-related or criminal activity.[5] These new measures, however, are aimed specifically at eliminating terrorist threats stemming from extremist groups, such as ISIS. In particular, news of the British national, who is suspected as the member of ISIS responsible for the brutal killings of American journalists, has undoubtedly raised concerns for the U.K. in heightening security standards.[6]

The confiscation of passports, whether indefinite or temporary, has serious implications not only for the individual from whom the passport is confiscated, but also for the global community as a whole. By allowing officials to confiscate passports from individuals suspected of terrorist acts, the U.K. government is sending a clear message that public security outweighs the free movement of individuals. An individual’s ability to exit and re-enter a given country is a deeply respected aspect of belonging to a nationality. To overly control an individual’s ability to travel to foreign nations encroaches upon jurisdictional concerns, particularly when an individual holds dual citizenship.

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It is imperative that the screening process to determine whether an individual has substantial links to an extremist group and poses a terrorist threat be well-developed. There exists the risk that passports may be confiscated without properly substantiating the individual’s terrorist threat. There must be a line drawn between substantiated confiscations for public protection and premature preventative confiscations based on unfounded predictions. Prime Minister Cameron has stated that confiscating passports of suspected terrorists would not apply to British nationals who hold one passport since the confiscation of their passport would render the individual stateless.[7] Therefore this initiative would only apply to British nationals who hold two passports.[8] By limiting passport confiscation to individuals with dual nationality, it appears as though the U.K. government is targeting individuals with close, direct ties to areas suspected of terrorist activity.

These recent developments ultimately demonstrate that possessing a passport requires that individuals respect the value and implications of national citizenship. As a member of the European Union, the U.K. has a distinct awareness of foreign regulation for the prevention of terrorist activity. For example, the European Union’s counter-terrorism strategy specifically aims to “pursue and investigate terrorists, impede planning, travel and communications, [and] cut off access to funding and materials and bring terrorists to justice.”[9] The curtailing of terrorist and criminal acts are extremely valid reasons for the confiscation of passports by U.K. authorities. Such measures are imperative for the control of domestic terrorist acts and for the prevention of the movement of individuals to foreign states for the purpose of terrorist and illegal activity on a global level.

The current crises in Syria and Iraq, and increased threat of terrorist activity resulting from these conflicts, also have serious implications for the United States. While the U.S. has not increased their threat level, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has recently stated that American and British officials have been in contact in order to evaluate terrorist threats posed by Western-born foreign fighters in Syria returning home.[10]

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The close monitoring of these threats and any increase in danger will likely result in the U.S. making comparable policy and legal determinations as the U.K. The crux of the current U.K. legislation is aimed at U.K passport confiscation based upon preventing individuals who are attempting to return to the U.K. after having traveled from engaging in terrorist regimes. Under current U.S. law, “a person’s naturalization can be revoked either by civil proceeding or pursuant to a criminal conviction,” and cases typically involve the individual falsifying information to fraudulently procure U.S. citizenship.[11]  It would be reasonable for the U.S. government to strengthen their passport confiscation scheme for the purpose of limiting terrorist activity in the U.S. Public safety certainly trumps a suspected terrorist’s ability to enter the country using a valid passport. The U.S.’ reliance upon passport confiscation should seek to curb potential terrorist threats both domestically and internationally.

Ultimately, the need to preserve public safety outweighs an individual’s capacity to possess a passport. The protectionary measures taken by U.K. authorities are a reasonable and necessary response to terrorist activity. As tensions rise with extremist groups in Islamic regions, it is likely that more nations will rely upon stricter policies that forbid certain individuals connected to extremist groups from entering their borders.

 

Natalie Krajinovic is a University of Baltimore School of Law J.D. candidate (’15), with a concentration in Business Law. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Arts in English and East Asian Studies from the University of Toronto, St. George. Natalie has always had an interest in international law and policy. While studying at the University of Toronto, she was the Editor-in-Chief of the Toronto Globalist, an international relations magazine with chapters across the globe. She currently serves as the President of the International Law Society and as the Comments Editor for the Journal of International Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Natalie is also a law clerk for John H. Denick & Associates, P.A., a business law firm in downtown Baltimore.

 

[1] UK terror threat level raised to ‘severe’, BBC (Aug. 29, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-28986271.

[2] Id.

[3] Kim Hjelmgaard, British terror suspects may be stripped of passports, USA Today (Sept. 1, 2014), http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/09/01/uk-anti-terror-powers-cameron/14921581/.

[4] UK terror threat level raised to ‘severe’, BBC (Aug. 29, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-28986271.

[5] Id.

[6] Jessica Elgot, Who Is The Hip Hop Jihadi Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, Linked With James Foley’s Murder? Here’s 9 Things We Know, The Huffington Post UK (Aug. 24, 2014), http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/08/24/abdel-majed-abdel-bary-hip-hop-jihadi-is-james-foley_n_5705043.html.

[7] Kim Hjelmgaard, British terror suspects may be stripped of passports, USA Today (Sept. 1, 2014), http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/09/01/uk-anti-terror-powers-cameron/14921581/.

[8] Id.

[9] Crisis & Terrorism, European Commission Home Affairs (May 28, 2014), http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/crisis-and-terrorism/index_en.htm.

[10] Michael Walsh and Rich Shapiro, UK raises threat level to severe, PM blames ‘poisonous ideology of Islamic extremism’ — U.S. level stays same, New York Daily News (Aug. 29, 2014), http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/britain-raises-threat-level-severe-terrorist-attack-highly-article-1.1921283.

[11] USCIS Policy Manual, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (Aug. 26, 2014), http://www.uscis.gov/policymanual/HTML/PolicyManual-Volume12-PartL-Chapter1.html#text:note-ID0EMP2Q.