France Telecom's former chief executive Didier Lombard is facing probe for his alleged role in a spate of staff suicides in the organization. He allegedly pushed tough measures in the organization which resulted in psychological harassment, reports, Reuters. He was investigated on Wednesday.
He was released under court surveillance on bail of 100,000 euros ($125,000) after being questioned for four hours by two investigating magistrates
Didier Lombard who was at the helm of affairs of the company when more than 30 employees committed suicide in 2008 and 2009, resigned in early 2011.
When Lombard became chief executive of France Telecom in 2005 he presided over an efficiency drive in which tens of thousands of jobs were cut.
The suicide rate at France Telecom was no higher than the national average, but the deaths attracted huge media attention, the BBC's David Chazan in Paris reports.
According to Le Monde daily, he refuted the charges saying,“ I forcefully reject the idea that (restructuring) plans vital to the survival of the company might have been the cause of human tragedies,"
Lombard's lawyer, Jean Veil, said his client had not been given a chance to explain himself fully but sought to clarify the context of his actions by referring to tough economic conditions and pressure exerted by the government, a minority stakeholder.
According to stuff.co.nz, Unions said harsh practices including forced moves and impossible performance targets were partly behind the rash of suicides. France Telecom had countered by saying the rate was no higher than in the general population.
Yet the former CEO, who was succeeded by Stephane Richard, said after stepping down that he regretted not taking measures earlier than he had to boost staff morale at the company of more than 100,000 employees.
In February 2010, government labour inspectors wrote in a report on the suicides that France Telecom had ignored warnings from doctors about the mental health of certain employees.
The report, seen by Reuters, pointed to a restructuring plan that sought to reduce headcount by 22,000 and put 10,000 other workers in new positions as having a ''pathological effect'' on staff morale.