Swiss court orders Nestlé to pay $2.8m to bullied ex-employee

LAUSANNE, Switzerland – Nestlé SA must pay a former executive 2 million Swiss francs (S$2.8 million) after she was bullied and forced out of the company, the newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported, citing a local appeals court ruling.

The Canton of Vaud Court of Appeals ruled Yasmine Motarjemi, the former head of global food safety at the Swiss packaged food giant, was entitled to nine years of salary – up until her retirement age – plus damages after she claimed she was bullied from her role and forced to apply for an occupational disability pension.

The court also awarded her about 100,000 francs (S$143,730) in legal costs in the long-running case, Tages Anzeiger reported.

The plaintiff’s lawyer, Ms Mathilde Bessonnet, called the decision a “milestone in Swiss jurisprudence,” the newspaper reported.

Ms Motarjemi, a former World Health Organisation scientist who joined the Vevey, Switzerland-based company in 2000, alleged that she was subject to harassment from 2006 onward after her attempts to flag food safety lapses were ignored. She was fired in 2010.

A Nestlé spokesperson told Bloomberg News the company wouldn’t appeal the decision, adding that the case was about employment law and had nothing to do with food safety.

“We sincerely regret the almost 12 years of litigation and wish to bring this legal matter to a final close. This decision was not taken overnight: We tried several times to find a solution to this dispute,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Nestlé said the company took adequate measures to protect Ms Motarjemi, including offering her equivalent positions within the company and mandating an external investigator to look into the matter.

“With the closure of this case, we sincerely hope that our decision will help Ms Motarjemi move forward,” the spokesperson said.

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