Former France Telecom execs to face trial over suicides

PARIS, June 16: French judges have ordered a trial against France Telecom and its former CEO for “moral harassment” following a wave of employee suicides in the late 2000s, according to judicial papers seen by AFP yesterday.

Alongside ex-boss Didier Lombard, six other managers and executives were referred to the Paris Criminal Court, four of whom face charges of complicity in workplace harassment, the judges’ order dated June 12 said.

The case is the first of institutionalised harassment that the court will have to decide, nine years after the first complaints were made.

Repetitive incentives, forced job changes, degrading tasks and isolation were among the alleged practices listed in the 650-page judges’ file, which according to them constituted a policy designed to “destabilise” employees and create an “anxiety-provoking working climate”.

An investigation focused on 39 employees as victims — 19 who took their own lives, 12 who attempted suicide and eight who suffered from deep depression or who were forced to stop work as a result.

The company — now renamed Orange — had been privatised in 2004, leading to major restructuring and job losses.

Between 2006 and 2008, it wanted to shed 22,000 jobs and retrain 10,000 employees for different jobs as it adapted to new technologies.

The deaths triggered questions about the way employees were managed and how the company dealt with stress. (AGENCIES)