France: 7 former France Telecom executives on trial over allegations of systematic workplace harassment

Author: Angelique Chrisafis, Guardian (UK), Published on: 10 July 2019

"Workplace bullying trial that shocked France draws to close", 8 Jul 2019

Former executives at France Télécom could face prison over organised workplace harassment that led to a spate of staff suicides a decade ago, as a two-month trial that shocked France draws to a close this week.

French state prosecutors have urged judges to find the executives guilty of moral harassment and hand down the maximum prison sentence of one year, plus large fines, after details emerged in court of the turmoil felt by workers over systematic bullying tactics aimed at pushing staff to leave.

The case against the former state-owned French telecoms firm – known since 2013 as Orange – could set a world precedent with company managers held personally criminally responsible for strategic harassment aimed at forcing workers to resign.

Between 2008 and 2009, 35 employees took their own lives. The company had been privatised and was undertaking a restructuring plan during which bosses set out to cut more than a fifth of the workforce – more than 22,000 jobs.

Many of the workers who killed themselves left notes saying the company had made their lives unbearable.

Seven former France Télécom bosses...are accused of putting in place a toxic management system of institutional harassment designed to force workers out. Some staff were routinely forced to change job or relocate for work, finding their positions had been scrapped.

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Related companies: France Telecom (now Orange)