The ex-chief executive of France Telecom and two other former executives have been jailed for pursuing a cost-cutting policy that was so severe it led to a spate of employee suicides.

Didier Lombard, his former deputy Louis-Pierre Wenes, and Olivier Barberot, the ex-head of human resources at France Telecom (which changed its name to Orange in 2013), were found guilty of “institutional harassment” for presiding over a restructuring program that allegedly prompted 35 employees to take their lives in 2008 and 2009 (and dozens more to attempt to do so).

They were each given a one-year sentence (with eight months suspended) and a €15,000 (U.S. $17,000) fine.

Four other executives, including Brigitte Dumont, the company’s current head of corporate and social responsibility, were found guilty of complicity and given four-month suspended sentences and €5,000 (U.S. $6,000) fines.

The company was also fined €75,000 (U.S. $83,000), and the sanctions—used for the first time—are the maximum available.

While all seven executives—as well as Orange itself—had denied the charges, the court examined 39 cases of employees and, of that number, 19 had taken their own lives; an additional 12 made attempts. The eight others had lived with depression or had been otherwise unable to work.

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Original Author: Neil Hodge