Modern-Day Pirates: Why Domestic Parent Corporations Should be Liable Under the Alien Tort Statute for Violations of Workers’ Rights Within Global Supply Chains

Modern-Day Pirates: Why Domestic Parent Corporations Should be Liable Under the Alien Tort Statute for Violations of Workers’ Rights Within Global Supply Chains

68 Am. U. L. Rev. 1933 (2019).

* Junior Staff Member, American University Law Review, Volume 68; J.D. Candidate, May 2020, American University Washington College of Law; B.A., History, 2015, Boston College.  I would like to thank Professor Susana SáCouto for her invaluable feedback and the staff of the Law Review for their editing assistance.  I would also like to thank Hannah Stambaugh and Nicholas T. Hillman for their constant guidance and support throughout the editorial process.  Finally, I am incredibly grateful to Professor Eric Laufgraben and Stephanie Wald for their instruction and mentorship.

Due to a growing international focus on corporate social responsibility, transnational corporations increasingly have greater societal and legal duties to disclose and take responsibility for workers’ rights within their supply chains.  For example, countries have introduced reporting requirements for corporations of certain sizes, and wronged supply chain workers have successfully brought suit against transnational parent corporations. In 2018, a United Nations working group introduced a draft treaty that would hold transnational corporations liable for human rights violations arising in the context of business operations.

This Comment argues that the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) is an appropriate mechanism to provide U.S. courts with jurisdiction over claims that foreign workers bring against U.S. parent corporations for workers’ rights violations within supply chains.  The ATS provides district courts with jurisdiction over claims brought by foreign plaintiffs for torts committed in violation of the law of nations. Given the growing international trend of holding corporations responsible for workers’ rights, U.S. courts should recognize a broader array of actionable torts under the ATS and U.S. parent corporations should reasonably foresee the risk of workers’ rights violations within their supply chains.  Accordingly, the ATS should remain an available option for foreign workers to hold U.S. parent corporations responsible for such violations.