Erika Collins Quoted in “Cross-Border Attys Grapple with #MeToo’s Varying Impact”


Erika C. Collins, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s New York office, was quoted in Law360, in “Cross-Border Attys Grapple with #MeToo’s Varying Impact,” by Braden Campbell. (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

While the #MeToo movement has reverberated in workplaces around the globe, cultural and legal differences between countries mean it hasn’t affected each one the same way, posing unique challenges for multinational employers trying to navigate a patchwork of independent jurisdictions.

For both domestic companies with operations overseas and foreign-based businesses with a U.S. footprint, these variances mean one-size-fits-all policies aren’t in the cards.

“We’re seeing this sort of tension between what local culture and law may require and what is sort of the high water mark here in the U.S.,” said Epstein Becker Green member Erika Collins, who advises multinationals on human resources issues.

The #MeToo movement, which encourages women to speak out when they’ve been sexually assaulted or harassed, started in late 2017 following media reports of harassment by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. The movement, which has been around since 2006, took off post-Weinstein when actress Alyssa Milano asked her Twitter followers to share their stories of sexual harassment using #MeToo.

The hashtag spread worldwide, prompting regional variations. In France, it’s known as #BalanceTonPorc — “rat out your pig” — and in Spanish-speaking countries as #YoTambien, or “me too.” But many other countries have not seen the same reckoning for workplace sexual harassers that the U.S. has, and in some cases they’ve even seen a backlash, Collins said.

In Japan, the emphasis on speaking out has clashed with a culture that encourages saving face, she said. In France, as President Emmanuel Macron publicly backed policies promoting gender equality, a group of prominent French women headlined by actress Catherine Deneuve published an open letter in a daily newsletter denouncing the movement as puritanical.

These reactions testify to “massive cultural differences around the globe in how gender is perceived and treated, and how sexual harassment may be perceived and treated,” Collins said. …

U.S. employers that have implemented so-called anti-fraternization rules limiting office romances or requiring their disclosure may run into trouble rolling them out in France, where these policies are routinely thrown out, Epstein Becker’s Collins said. …