Did Ex-France Telecom CEO Play Role in 30 Suicides?

Didier Lombard under investigation
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 5, 2012 1:13 AM CDT
Ex-France Telecom Chief Probed Over Suicides
"I forcefully reject the ideas that plans vital to the survival of the company might have been the cause of human tragedies," Lombard wrote in Le Monde yesterday.   (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Did former France Telecom CEO Didier Lombard's tough management style drive some employees to suicide? More than 30 employees killed themselves while Lombard was running the telecom giant in 2008 and 2009, and he has been placed under investigation for alleged harassment, reports Reuters. Lombard, who stepped down in early 2010 amid criticism of his handling of the crisis, was questioned yesterday and released on $125,000 bail.

The suicide rate at France Telecom when Lombard was in charge was in line with France's national average, though many of those who took their own lives noted pressure from management in notes they left behind. Reuters reports that unions are pointing to tough practices like forced moves and impossible performance targets as suicide drivers; Lombard says his restructuring plans were vital to the company's survival. Government labor inspectors investigating the suicides found that the company had ignored warnings from doctors about the mental health of employees. He "is being accused of harassment against people that he never met," his lawyer says. "That is a stunning accusation." (More France Telecom stories.)

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