The former CEO of the group from 2005 to 2010, Didier Lombard, and his former number two Louis-Pierre Wenès were sentenced in 2019 to one year’s imprisonment, including eight months suspended and a fine of 15,000 euros. The public prosecutor requested on Friday a sentence of one year in prison, including six months suspended and a fine of the same amount.

The public prosecutor requested, as in the first instance, that they be sentenced only for the period 2007-2008 and released for the facts subsequent to that period.

A six-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of 10,000 euros have also been requested against four former officials, who are appearing for complicity.

According to the prosecution, Messrs. Lombard and Wenès “designed and implemented” a policy of “industrial, collective and methodical moral harassment”, by means of “prohibited methods”, which led to a “degradation of working conditions” of “thousands of employees”, some of whom committed suicide.

During the hearing, the cases of 39 employees were examined: 19 ended their days, 12 attempted to do so and eight experienced an episode of depression or a work stoppage over the period 2007-2010.

The two former heads of the company – which became Orange in 2013 – “put their knowledge, experience and talent as captains of industry to work to the detriment of the interests of the France Telecom agents whom they had a duty to protect”, pinged, after a seven-hour indictment, the deputy general Valérie De Saint-Félix.

– “No matter the cost” –

According to the prosecution, the aim was to obtain, via the Next plan presented in 2006, the departure of 22,000 employees and the mobility of 10,000 others, without carrying out redundancies or setting up an economic safeguard plan, in order to cope with technological transformations and fierce competition.

An objective of massive deflation of the workforce that the management of the company privatized in 2004 “knew unachievable” without “moral harassment”, estimated the general counsel Yves Micolet.

She nevertheless maintained it, he argued, “at all costs” until the summer of 2009 and the outbreak of the crisis in broad daylight. And this despite the “breakage” caused among employees and the many alerts, launched at the end of 2006, in particular by occupational medicine and trade unions.

Incentives to leave, overwork, shelving, intimidation, excessive and intrusive control, geographical or functional mobility: the public prosecutor recalled the entire range used to incite employees deemed undesirable to leave, from when “placed in permanent instability” and “isolated”.

This new human resources policy was, still according to the Advocate General, fixed “at the top in a quasi-military way and declined at all levels of hierarchy”.

“Managers have been harassed and become harassers”, they have been trained to “harass scientifically” and financially incentivized to get as many departures as possible.

– The “legend” of Mr. Lombard –

At the top of that chain, according to the prosecution: Mr. Lombard. During the trial, the former CEO, 80, took refuge behind his high office, away from the field, to clear himself of all responsibility.

“A completely false legend: not only did Mr. Lombard give the instructions, but he was perfectly informed of the lifts” and alerts issued, said the Advocate General.

As for Mr. Wenès, according to the prosecution, he “adhered to Mr. Lombard’s proposals without making the slightest reproach”.

The two leaders formed “a triumvirate” with the former HRD Olivier Barberot, sentenced to the same sentence at first instance and who withdrew the appeal initially lodged.

First CAC 40 company condemned for institutional “moral harassment”, France Telecom, which in the late 2000s became the symbol of suffering at work, had not appealed the judgment which had sanctioned it with maximum fine, 75,000 euros.