Outrage in France is growing in the wake of allegations that the country's Ikea branch executives routinely hired private investigators to spy on current and prospective employees, a practice that is illegal in France. A court in Versailles is currently in the process of examining all available evidence.
The New York Times reviewed the Versailles court's records and found that Ikea executives would request and pay for spying operations against applicants and employees for a variety of reasons, including "the vetting of job applicants, efforts to build cases against employees accused of wrongdoing, and even attempts to undermine the arguments of consumers bringing complaints against the company." According to the Times, in a 10-year period, Ikea France's executives approved more than €475,000 worth of invoices from private investigators.
One unfortunate former employee who was allegedly on the receiving end of Ikea France's heightened scrutiny is Ikea's former deputy director of communications and merchandising, Virginie Paulin. Paulin was allegedly investigated, at Ikea France executives' request, for missing work due to a health condition. These executives, including former chief executive Jean-Louis Baillot, who was fired by Ikea after an internal inquiry into the spying operation, suspected Paulin of exaggerating her illness. She was fired in 2009, but secured a lawyer in order to challenge her termination.
According to the Times, it was during Paulin's legal battle with Ikea over her termination that emails between investigators and Ikea executives were leaked to the French press, sparking a considerable public outcry and leading to the ongoing investigation at Versailles. Ikea conducted an internal review and fired many of the executives chiefly involved in the spying scheme, but Paulin says she's yet to receive an apology or condolences from any member of Ikea's overall leadership. “That’s the gesture I would have expected — not some big investigation," Paulin told the Times. "But I’ve never gotten that.”