U.S. Companies Increasingly Refusing to Conform to German Labor Practices

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It’s no secret that U.S. and German labor practices are quite different. The U.S. is noticeably stricter on the rights and benefits of employees, whereas Germany seems to favor more employee prerogatives. A recent study even showed that the U.S. is the only wealthy nation in the world that does not have legally mandated vacation days for employees as well as no legal requirement that holidays come with extra pay. On the other side, Germany requires that employees have at least 24 paid vacation days along with 10 paid holidays.

Recently, there have been a number of occurrences where U.S. companies in Germany have had difficulty accepting Germany’s “social partnership” that exists between employers and employees. Last week even, workers for Amazon from the two largest distribution centers in Germany walked out in protest as Amazon company management failed to come to a wage agreement with its employers, instead opting to its American policy in which employees have no reliable guarantee for their income.

U.S. fashion chain Hollister, which is owned by Abercrombie & Fitch, is another example of a company who has refused to conform to German labor practices. Ignoring German data protection guidelines, Hollister used video cameras to monitor its employees and searched them after every shift, treating them like potential shoplifters.

Such occurrences have even caused some companies to fail in Germany. Wal-Mart, for example, misjudged German labor laws by urging employees to permanently smile and disallowing employees to flirt and engage in romantic relationships with one another. All of these violated the personal rights of the employees and Wal-Mart didn’t understand why. Many U.S. companies view employee rights guaranteed in Germany’s Works Constitution Act as inconveniences that need to be avoided.

It seems that most U.S. companies approach this issue in a way that as some companies supply an identical product worldwide; they also want to incorporate the same personnel policy worldwide.

Author: Sean Foley, Legal Trainee, Bridgehouse Law Charlotte

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