The deaths of 35 people, all by their own hand, should never be uplifting but the conviction of the culprits who drove them to it is.
Three former executives of a French telecommunications giant have been found guilty of creating a corporate culture so toxic that 35 of their employees were driven to suicide in the mid-2000s. The charge in the historic case: "harcelement moral institutionnel" or "institutional moral harassment".
The ruling from a Paris criminal court caps a months-long trial and years-long saga that has spurred protests and highlighted issues of labour relations and workplace conditions in a country with a sometimes contentious relationship to capitalism.
CFE-CGC Orange, a trade union that represents the company's workers, has been tracking employee suicides since 2007, and its leaders said they welcomed Friday's decision.
The spate of suicides, which happened more than a decade ago, came as the company underwent a massive restructuring. Then France's national telephone company, France Telecom embarked on an aggressive plan to cut 22,000 workers and shift another 10,000 into new jobs − all between 2006 and 2008. Most of the employees, because they were civil servants, could not be fired.
So, prosecutors said, the company's executives tried to make workers' lives so miserable they would leave voluntarily. Lombard, speaking to senior managers in 2007, reportedly vowed, "I'll get them out one way or another, through the window or through the door."