Ikea Accused of Spying on Employees, Customers

Only French arm of the company hit with allegations
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2013 7:15 AM CST
Ikea Accused of Spying on Employees, Customers
A car is driven past the IKEA store in Plaisir, west of Paris, Wednesday Nov. 20, 2013.   (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

Ikea in France allegedly spied on its employees—and some of its customers as well. The alleged investigations came to light via company emails that were leaked to the press last year and painted a picture of surveillance stretching back to 2002. Among the emails: Details regarding Virginie Paulin, who was fired from her job as deputy director of communications and merchandising in 2009 after 12 years with the company. She had taken a year's medical leave over Hepatitis C, and after extensive spying—the company is accused of giving a private detective her Social Security number and bank account details, and of tricking her into faxing copies of her passport under the guise of a travel contest—Ikea suspected she was not as sick as she claimed to be. A judge ultimately awarded her more than $82,000 in compensation over the "unjustified" firing, before the emails came to light, the New York Times reports.

The company completed its own review and several executives were fired, but now a formal investigation has begun; a regional court is looking into the matter, and criminal charges could be filed. Paulin and several unions have also filed civil complaints. Court records show the alleged investigations touched job applicants, employees suspected of wrongdoing, and those who had voiced workplace grievances; they also show investigations were allegedly performed to undermine customers who complained. In a separate article, the Times delves into one of those cases: Two customers wanted compensation after their $13,740 worth of furniture did not arrive, forcing them to spend weeks in a bed and breakfast; Ikea allegedly performed an extensive investigation into the couple before agreeing to a settlement. (More Ikea stories.)

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