In a first-ever action, a company and its former managers were criminally prosecuted for institutional harassment associated with suicides among the company’s employees.

In a judgment last month, the Paris Criminal Court sentenced France Telecom to a fine of 75,000 euros -  the maximum penalty – for institutional harassment that had spread from the leadership to the rest of the company in 2007-2008. Three former executives of France Telecom: Didier Lombard , ex-president and chief executive officer; Louis-Pierre Wenès, ex-number 2; and Olivier Barberot, former director of human resources, were found guilty of "institutional harassment" and sentenced to one year in prison each, along with a 15,000 euro fine.  Other defendants were found guilty of complicity in moral harassment. 

According to the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), this is the first time that a court has recognized the notion of "institutional harassment."

Investigating judges Brigitte Jolivet and Emmanuelle Robin analyzed 39 cases of employees who reported being harassed. Nineteen of them ultimately committed suicide. The two-month-long trial involved 41 hearings.

The ETUI issued a statement noting that the aim of the lawsuit that launched the proceedings was not compensation, but "the condemnation of these deadly methods, because we must prohibit them, as it was in its time asbestos. What happened in this business and continues to happen elsewhere concerns the whole world of work and this must stop.”


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