Monday, July 15, 2019

The 13th nominee for the “worst employer of 2019” is … the excoriating executives

It’s been nearly a month since I posted the last nominee for 2019’s Worst Employer. It’s not for lack of ideas; it’s just that the prior nominees have been so awful that the bar for qualification has been set pretty high. Thankfully, France Télécom has come to the rescue.

What did the former top executives at France’s national phone company do to earn their nomination?

I’ll let the New York Times story take it from here:

The men — all former top executives at France’s giant telecom company — wanted to downsize the business by thousands of workers a decade ago. But they couldn’t fire most of them. The workers were state employees — employees for life — and therefore protected. 
So the executives resolved to make life so unbearable that the workers would leave, prosecutors say. Instead, at least 35 employees — workers’ advocates say nearly double that number — committed suicide, feeling trapped, betrayed and despairing of ever finding new work in France’s immobile labor market. … 
“They were stuck, cornered,” said Michel Ledoux, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers. “The only possibility was to make them leave, one way or another.” 
Weeks of wrenching testimony about despairing employees who hanged themselves, immolated themselves, or threw themselves out of windows, under trains and off bridges and highway overpasses, have suggested that the former executives went very far in “pushing the company into the new century,” as corporate strategy dictated. … 
“The company was going under and it didn’t even know it,” Mr. Lombard, the ex-chief executive, testified. “We could have gone about it much more gently if we hadn’t had the competition banging on our door.” 
Unfortunately for Mr. Lombard, he was recorded saying in 2007 that he would reach the quota of layoffs “one way or another, by the window or by the door.” The window is what a number of the employees chose. 
“This isn’t going to be lacework here,” Mr. Barberot said in 2007. “We’re going to put people in front of life’s realities.”

If you harass employees to the point of mass suicide in the name of layoffs, you might just be the worst employer of 2019.

Big thanks to Kelly Paxton for bringing this story to my attention.