Former Sanofi exec accused of sexting and indecent exposure demands €1.2m

pharmafile | March 7, 2018 | News story | Research and Development, Sales and Marketing Sanofi, pharma 

A former Sanofi executive fired for sexting, indecent exposure and other alleged sexual harassment charges has been demanding up to €1.2 million through legal action arguing against his unfair dismissal for gross misconduct in August 2013, Bloomberg has reported. He had been with the company for more than two decades.

While Paris courts have already rejected his lawsuit on two occasions, Jean-Marc Podvin, former Director of Press Relations for the French pharma giant, is currently appealing against the 17 October appellate ruling from France’s top court, according to his lawyer Luc Migueres.

He is accused by his female assistant of sending lewd and unsolicited messages in 2013. According to rulings from a French employment tribunal and an appeals court, in a text to his assistant, he had described sexting as “hot” and told her “you’re sexy”, commenting on her “very pretty top…and bottom.” In a separate text, he remarked that she was wearing “wonderful pants today […] magnifique”. The assistant also noted that he repeatedly requested dates with her and took multiple photos of her, though she felt pressured to respond kindly as Podvin had promised her a permanent position at the firm.  

Besides this, while at work Podvin had reportedly searched the internet for terms including “topless” and “adultery Paris”.

Most serious is the allegation by Susan Flaherty, a then-Press Officer at the company, who claims that, after giving her a ride home after a Black Eyed Peas concert in June 2011, he stopped about 500 metres from her house and “put [her] hand on his penis, which was already outside his trousers.”

Threatened that he had deliberately stopped the car a distance from her home, Flaherty says: “He laughed, put his penis back in his trousers and I reminded him that my boyfriend was waiting for me and was worrying about me. He dropped me off.”

Podvin has sought compensation for the “humiliation” he received after being escorted from the premises by security officers in front of colleagues. He did receive €1,500, but also requested for his stock-options plans to be unfrozen. Since his dismissal, other accusers came forward with their own allegations against him.

He denies all the charges against him except sending the text messages, though he argues they have been misinterpreted.

“The tone of the texts is a bit lewd but it’s hard to say it amounts to much more than flirting,” said Migueres.

While Sanofi has refused to comment on the situation directly, the company has stated that it “has always taken all the necessary measures to prevent sexual harassment, to put an end to it and sanction it.”

Matt Fellows

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