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20 December 2019

France Télécom: sentence for institutional harassment confirmed

france telecom

On 20 December 2019, the Paris criminal court found France Télécom and its former top executives guilty of institutional harassment.

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This was the first time in the world that the leading executives of a major company have faced criminal charges following work-related suicides. The proceedings took place between 6 May and 11 July 2019, with 41 hearings held in the Paris court. The initial complaint was filed by the Sud PTT union on 14 September 2009. An in-depth inquest by labour inspectors gave rise to a report compiled by the examining magistrates, Brigitte Jolivet and Emmanuelle Robin. Thisanalysed in great detail 39 cases of harassed employees, 19 of whom had committed suicide.

In its 20 December 2019 landmark ruling, the Paris criminal court sentenced France Télécom to the maximum fine of 75,000 Euros, recognising that institutional harassment had spread from the top to the whole company in 2007-2008. The three former France Télécom executives - Didier Lombard, ex-CEO, Louis-Pierre Wenès, his ex-deputy, and Olivier Barberot, ex-Director of Human Resources - were found guilty of “institutional harassment” and sentenced to one year imprisonment (8 months of which were suspended), as well as being fined 15,000 Euros. They were however discharged for the period 2008-2010. The other defendants were found guilty of complicity to harassment. This is the first time a court has recognised the notion of “institutional harassment”.

“For Solidaires, the trade union which instituted civil proceedings, the key issue in this case was not one of compensation or damages, but of condemning such deadly practices. We need to get them banned, as was the case several years ago with asbestos. What happened then in this company and what continues to occur elsewhere is something concerning the whole working world. It has to stop. The sentence passed this day constitutes a milestone in the fight against capitalism’s deadly practices”, the union stated in a press release.


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