Posts Tagged ‘France Telecom’
Friday, July 6th, 2012
France Telecom, for 115 years a national utility, was partially privatized in 1998 with the public owning the majority of shares. In 2004, the government sold its shares, turning over the industry to private investors. In 2005, Didier Lombard was named chief executive. He pressed for a corporate-wide drive for “efficiency.” Layoffs topped 20,000. Surviving employees complained of being put under tremendous pressure by all managers. The stress was systemic.
A spate of suicides followed. One employee stabbed himself at a meeting. One employee set himself ablaze outside the Paris headquarters. Between 2008 and 2011, there were 60 suicides that Lombard discounted as a “suicide trend.” Under pressure, Lombard resigned in 2012. He is being held accountable for 35 of those suicides.
France’s law against bullying (moral harassment) has been invoked against Lombard. He was detained and released on 100,000 euros bail ($125,000). Normally, the law is applied in cases where the harassment is directly applied. No executive has ever been held accountable for this indirect harassment. This is a test case.