Unpaid French cook finally gets just desserts

17th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

ANNONAY, France, Jan 17 (AFP) - A French cook who worked for no pay and no vacation for 17 years has won a case against his former employers after producing evidence of his exploitation that had lawyers shaking their heads in disbelief.

ANNONAY, France, Jan 17 (AFP) - A French cook who worked for no pay and no vacation for 17 years has won a case against his former employers after producing evidence of his exploitation that had lawyers shaking their heads in disbelief.

A labour tribunal in Annonay, in France's Burgundy region, awarded Philippe Pitiot EUR 70,742 (USD 92,674) in back pay for the past five years - the maximum allowed under France's statute of limitations - after discovering the extent of his virtual slavery at the hands of the couple who hired him.

"At first, I was willing to make some concessions because she and her husband had big money problems," said Pitiot, 42, explaining that he was initially paid just five months after being taken on in 1987 to work in a hotel restaurant in the village of Lalouvesc.

He said his boss, Genevieve Arnaud, had promised to make up his salary later on but never did, instead just ensuring that he was fed and housed in the hotel and occasionally buying him clothes.

After the hotel was sold in April last year, Arnaud and her husband took a Spanish vacation.

"When they came back, they brought me a carton of cigarettes and a polo shirt, but I wanted to be paid," Pitiot said.

When the new owner of the hotel found out, he put Pitiot in contact with a lawyer, who immediately lodged the lawsuit.

"At first, I didn't believe it. But when I saw all the documentary proof, I realised he'd been basted like a turkey," the lawyer, Dominique Chambon, said.

The lawyer added that he was now looking at lodging a second lawsuit for fraud against Arnaud for claiming to French tax authorities that she had paid Pitiot with cheques of which there was no trace.

Arnaud's lawyer, Jean-Michel Drevon, said his client had always paid the cook's payroll taxes and was surprised "he didn't take action earlier" if he was unhappy with his conditions.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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