- The Washington Times - Monday, January 17, 2005

ANNONAY, France (Agence-France Presse) — 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 labor tribunal in Annonay, in France’s Burgundy region, awarded Philippe Pitiot $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 Mr. Pitiot, 42, explaining that he was paid for five monthsafter being hired 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, Mrs. Arnaud and her husband took a vacation to Spain.

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

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

“At first, I didn’t believe it. But when I saw all the documentary proof, I realized he’d been basted like a turkey,” the lawyer, Dominique Chambon, said.

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

Mrs. Arnaud’s attorney, 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 employment.

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