News & Media

Profs. Bisom-Rapp, Rebecca Lee Speak at French-Am. Chamber of Commerce

Published: April 23, 2012
French Chamber

Bonsoir de San Diego! The French American Chamber of Commerce and Thomas Jefferson School of Law co-hosted the Legal Business Conference on April 18, the third such event at TJSL. The conference attracted entrepreneurs and legal professionals who would like to better understand French and American legal systems so they can better handle the legal side of business on either side of the Atlantic.

The Conference was moderated by the director of the French American Chamber of Commerce, Lionel Bochurberg , who also offered the French take on various labor law issues in the United States.

The conference began with an informative presentation by TJSL Professor Susan Bisom-Rapp. Professor Bisom-Rapp is an expert on employment discrimination, occupational safety, and comparative workplace law. She also co-authored the casebook, The Global Workplace: International and Comparative Employment Law – Cases and Materials. Professor Bisom-Rapp provided the audience with tremendous insights regarding the U.S. and France employment law systems. In addition, she explained what a foreign investor should pay attention to when employing an at-will employee in the United States.

Professor Bisom-Rapp’s presentation compared workplace law in two important economies: the U.S. and France.  She noted that two kinds of comparisons were possible.  First, the U.S. is a common law country -- a country that embraces the English tradition of judge-made law -- while France is a civil law country, steeped in the tradition of legal codification.  But Professor Bisom-Rapp noted that common law and civil law systems are converging over time.  Common law countries increasingly rely on legislation, which is codified statutory law.  Civil law judges interpret statutory law in sometimes very expansive or unexpected ways.  So this comparison is not as useful as it might be.

“A better way to compare the U.S. and France,” said Bisom-Rapp, “is in terms of the level and the way that the two countries regulate their labor markets.  France clearly regulates the employment relationship more heavily than the U.S.  Protections for employees are greater.  France, in terms of employment law, is more rigid while the U.S. is more flexible.  A byproduct of these different styles of legal regulation is that while France has many more employee rights and protections, the end result for employers is more predictable.  In contrast, the U.S. has fewer protections and more unexpected ways employers might incur liability. It is more unpredictable.”

The second speaker was Professor Rebecca Lee of Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Professor Lee began the presentation with an introduction of the racial diversity in the United States and California. Recently, the United States have seen a substantial increase in employment discrimination charge filings. Alternatively in France, legal protection in the workplace is largely in compliance with the European Union directives. Professor Lee concluded the presentation with two employment cases in the United States to explain the difference between disparate impact and disparate treatment.

"My presentation focused on the topic of employment discrimination, which is a major exception to the default rule of at-will employment in the U.S.,” said Professor Lee. “It is helpful for French business owners to be familiar with U.S. antidiscrimination laws in light of the diverse population in the U.S. and particularly in California, and because the U.S. approach differs in significant ways from the approach taken in France."

The last speaker of the conference was Larry Walraven from Walraven & Lehman LLP. Walraven has been representing and advising employers on labor law compliance, employment litigation, and others for more than twenty years and he discussed how a labor union in the United States affects the operation of a business. In the United States, employers have to pay close attention during the union organizing drive. Moreover, a foreign investor buying a U.S. business must carefully consider various successor employer issues and obligations.