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Former CEO, Didier Lombard, and six managers are facing $35,000 fines and two years in prison if found culpable of workplace bullying. The alleged harassment occurred after France Telecom was privatized and executives tried restructuring the company in 2006, partly by slashing 22,000 jobs and retraining thousands of others.
“I’ll get them out one way or another, through the window or through the door,” Lombard told top managers in 2007.
The fallout was brutal, with at least 19 workers killing themselves (union reps say it was 35) and one taking his life during a staff meeting. Another worker fatally set himself on fire in an office parking lot in 2011.
“The whole staff is completely overwhelmed with emotion,” said a trade union representative. “All of Bordeaux is in tears.”
But French Telecom, now called Orange, plans to dispute the charges.
“I forcefully reject that plans that were essential to the survival of the company could have been the cause of the human tragedies cited by the complainants,” Lombard wrote when the harassment probe began in 2012.