Orange, ex-CEO found guilty of driving workers to suicide in landmark ruling

In a landmark ruling, a Paris court on Friday found telecoms company Orange guilty of driving several employees to suicide during a restructuring after privatisation more than a decade ago, reports say.

Orange, formerly known as France Telecom, was fined $83,000 while its ex-CEO Didier Lombard, above, was jailed for one year and fined $16,616.

The ruling may help bring more such moral harassment cases from the corporate world to light.

The 39 cases involving Orange included 19 suicides, 12 suicide attempts and eight cases of serious depression.

The court offered compensation to families of victims and the survivors on the last day of the trial.

Without specifying the compensation amount, the judge said the claims amount to $2.25 million.

During the privatisation, France Telecom made 22,000 employees redundant and sent 10,000 others to distant cities giving them new roles and unrealistic targets.

During the trial, Lombard, his closest aide Louis-Pierre Wenes, and human resources director Olivier Barberot denied any wrongdoing.

Wenes and Barberot said the restructuring plan was an economic necessity.

Lombard is appealing the court ruling. Orange would not appeal.