The employees at France Télécom killed themselves in the mid-2000s after management sought to reduce the work force through a policy of harassment, a court found.

The former chief executive of one of France’s biggest companies and two subordinates were convicted on Friday of “institutional moral harassment” in the suicides of 35 employees in the mid-2000s, in a landmark ruling that represents the first time a French company has been held responsible for such a crime.
The chief executive, Didier Lombard, who led France Télécom, the former national telephone company that is now the telecommunications giant Orange, was sentenced to four months in prison and fined $16,000, as were the company’s second-in-command and its director of human resources at the time. Orange was fined the maximum $83,000.