Statoil in suit over CSR jobNovember 2010
A woman who took up a senior post as a human rights advisor with the Norwegian oil company Statoil has filed a lawsuit claiming the position was a sham and that she was merely expected to fulfil public relations duties.
Mitra Forouhar has begun legal proceedings in a court in California where she now lives.
She is seeking damages for fraud and deceit on the grounds that she was persuaded to take the Norway-based post in March 2008 under false pretences. Her claim argues that the promises made to her about the nature of the job were incorrect and that the company ‘never intended to allow her to perform the essential tasks necessary to hold the company to the human rights promises it makes to the international community’.
After working in the job for a year, Forouhar, a former attorney with expertise in human rights law, claims she found that most of her duties were connected to public relations matters, and says her attempts to implement human rights assessments and training programmes for Statoil’s overseas business operations were obstructed.
She also alleges that the corporate structure of Statoil made it impossible for her to implement the human rights policies she thought she was hired to develop. As a result she became stressed and has been on medical leave since April 2009.
Statoil said Forouhar’s allegations are ‘unfounded and incorrect’ and that it will fight the lawsuit. It added: ‘As an international oil and gas company, Statoil takes its human rights responsibilities very seriously. We are a founding member of the United Nations Global Compact, an active supporter of international initiatives on business and human rights, and work systematically to ensure that our operations meet all applicable national and international laws and standards.’
The case has similarities with a recent legal battle in the UK involving Tim Nicholson, former head of sustainability at the property company Grainger. Nicholson took Grainger to an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal following a series of clashes with senior managers. He argued they lacked commitment to the sustainability agenda and were obstructing him from doing his job properly. The case was settled out of court.
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