A French telecom company and its former chief executive have gone on trial in Paris. Orange is facing accusations of pursuing a strategy to destabilize employees, resulting in a wave of suicides over a decade ago.
This trial of the company and their former CEO, Didier Lombard, began in Paris on Monday. Five other former executives and one current employee are also facing trial in the same case.
According to a spokesperson for the prosecutors, some of the executives are under suspicion of “psychological harassment,” while others face charges of “complicity.”
French Company Going To Trial After Staff Suicides
Also according to the spokesperson, prosecutors allege the use of a “corporate strategy” to create an “anxiety-inducing work environment” that destabilizes employees and undermines their dignity.
According to the labor union that represents Orange workers, 19 workers committed suicide between 2007 and 2010. Another 12 employees attempted suicide during the period.
In 2009 prosecutors began an investigation into the suicides at Orange, formerly known as France Telecom.
The trial will last around two months. Individuals found guilty possibly face jail time and fines. One of the executives on trial is still an employee of the company.
The suicides coexisted with a significant restructuring of the telecom company that followed privatization and a government bailout. Directed by Lombard, the restoration planned to cut its workforce by 22,000 for three years.
Management has been accused of using “particularly violent methods of institutionalized harassment” to intimidate employees into leaving.
Orange did not respond to several requests for comment on Monday. The company has previously denied accusations of harassment and said it would defend itself in court.
Lombard’s Lawyers did not comment. According to media reports, the former CEO previously denied a connection between the suicides and the working conditions at Orange and claims he’s done nothing wrong.
Orange is the only company of its size in France facing trial for psychological harassment.