Management couldn’t fire employees at France Télécom, so, according to critics, they harassed them hoping they would quit. But at least 35 committed suicide under the pressure, and some reports claim the number is closer to 60.
France Télécom was privatized and rebranded as Orange in July 2013. The company wasn’t keeping up with technological changes and, according to executives, were saddled with state employees, who are protected from termination. In 2007, Didier Lombard, the former chief executive of France Télécom, said they would get to their ideal number of layoffs “one way or another, by the window or by the door.”
A New York Times article describes the environment: “A grim universe of underemployment, marginalization, miscasting and systematic harassment was established at the huge company, according to testimony at the trial.” Managers tried changing job responsibilities for some workers, but employees were left without tasks or with tasks they couldn’t do.
With France’s high unemployment rate, employees felt they had few options. Union members, shown here, express their support during the trial in Paris. We’ll see whether the judges find company executives guilty.
How did management justify its practices? On the other hand, how could they have acted differently?
What experience do you have with international labor laws? Describe differences and how they might affect business decisions.
Should France reconsider its lifetime employment protections?
What leadership character dimensions are illustrated by this situation?