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“Bossnapping”, a French phenomenon

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So called “bossnapping” is becoming an integral (yet extreme) part of the labour relations landscape in France. . With thanks to our French member firm Capstan. Originally posted on the Ius Laboris …

So called “bossnapping” is becoming an integral (yet extreme) part of the labour relations landscape in France. . With thanks to our French member firm Capstan. Originally posted on the Ius Laboris Knowledge Base: www.globalhrlaw.com

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  • 1. “Bossnapping”, a French phenomenon Publication Date: 2 May 2014 | Author(s): Jean-Baptiste Chavialle, Mathieu Mercadier Member Firm: Capstan Country: France Although only a tiny number of individuals have been concerned compared to the number of companies there are, sequestrations of managers and senior company officials have hit the headlines since 2009. Sony, 3M, Caterpillar, Scapa, PSA…, all these international groups have faced this problem. Most recently, the sequestration of two managers of the Goodyear tyre plant in Amiens focused public and political attention on the problem. A rare exception to begin with, so-called “bossnapping” is becoming an integral (yet extreme) part of the labour relations landscape in France. The majority of the companies concerned by these sequestrations are subsidiaries of groups with the HQ located abroad. The distance between the decision-making authority and the employees can generate in the latter a sense of fatalism, leading to irrational behaviour. The context is also decisive. Sequestrations mostly take place in response to the coincidental announcement of, on the one hand, substantial profits and, on the other hand, collective redundancies or a decision to relocate a profitable business. With regard to who the victims are, they are often the director of HR and/or the managing director of the subsidiary. However, precisely because the decision-making authority is located abroad, employees rarely extract concessions. More than a social weapon, “bossnapping” is used for media purposes. Kidnap your boss and you are guaranteed to obtain local and national media coverage around your company for at least three days. Sequestrating a manager exposes its authors to serious penalties. A sequestration exceeding seven days is a crime and its authors could face up to twenty years of imprisonment and a fine of 150.000 Euros. If the sequestration lasts no more than seven days it is a mere offense and the penalties are reduced to five years of imprisonment and a fine of 75.000 Euros. However, in practice the authors are rarely punished. Employers and the public authorities are reluctant to pursue employees broadly supported by public opinion. In addition to the threat of criminal proceedings, the perpetrators of the
  • 2. 2 sequestration can be dismissed for wilful misconduct, even in the context of a strike. Promises of the management extracted during a sequestration may be considered null by a Court on the grounds that the company’s consent was vitiated by the physical and moral coercion exercised on the captive managers. In order to protect themselves against this new risk, foreign groups established in France must focus on prevention. This goes mainly through the coaching of the management on how to handle such situations and the organisation of an effective dialogue between the employees and their hierarchy. Even if it cannot be justified, the sequestration of a manager is always the result of a poor or broken relationship between employees and their bosses. Originally posted on the Ius Laboris Knowledge Base: www.globalhrlaw.com About Ius Laboris Ius Laboris is an alliance of law firms offering employers cross-border employment and pensions law advice. It has 1,300 specialist HR lawyers in over 150 cities and 44 countries. Ius Laboris offers access to the best local HR law experts in one global team with 20% more ranked employment lawyers (Chambers & Partners, November 2013) than any other global HR legal services organisation. Further, Ius Laboris has 50% more recommended lawyers than its nearest rival in a recent survey in PLC's employment law guide. Clients include many household names as well as multinational companies in all sectors ranging from energy, retail and technology to pharmaceuticals. For more information on Ius Laboris, please visit iuslaboris.com.