French internet company Orange found guilty of string of employee suicides

French phone and internet provider Orange was found guilty Friday of a string of employee suicides.

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A Paris court fined it 75,000 euros (more than $83,000) on Friday in a landmark court ruling over suicides in the 2000s while the company was undergoing difficult restructuring. A decision on whether to award 2 million euros ($2.2 million) in damages from the company was pending.

The former CEO was also convicted and sentenced to four months in prison and ordered to pay 15,000 euros in fines. Other managers were also sentenced to prison and thousands of euros in fines. It is not yet clear whether they will appeal.

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They denied responsibility for suicides of people they didn't know. But the court ruled they and the company were guilty of collective moral harassment.

Orange is France's first big company to be tried on the charge so this could set legal precedent.

The court said “the methods used to reach 22,000 job cuts were illegal.”

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Orange's lawyers said the job cuts were a necessary part of privatization of state-run France Telecom. Orange is still France's dominant telephone company and has operations in 26 countries around Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Its share price did not see significant change after the ruling.