Why Statoil was sued by its own human rights advisor

Equinor has just launched a new partnership with the repressive Azerbaijan government. Image: Equinor

In 2010, Statoil (now Equinor) was sued by its own human rights advisor, Mitra Forouhar. Ms Forouhar claimed that the company had essentially given a false job description, misrepresenting the Human Rights Advisor as a meaningful position when in fact it was just a PR role.

According to a report by the Business and Human Rights Resource centre,

‘she was assured the job would involve the chance to develop and implement human rights policies for the company’s overseas operations, including the implementation of human rights risk assessments (HRRAs)…

After working at her job for a year, the plaintiff claims that the majority of her duties consisted of external public relations matters, and claims that her attempts to implement HRRAs and human rights training programmes for the company’s overseas business operations were thwarted by her superiors.

She 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 and institute.’

Statoil reached an out-of-court settlement with Ms Forouhar in 2012. However, the company seems not to have learned from the experience, as it has now launched into what could be a whole new human rights scandal: it has formed a joint operating company with the repressive Aliyev government in Azerbaijan.