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Book claims that some job applicants said they were subject to a "crash test" in which they had to drink up to 20 shots of the pastis before they were given a job at Pernod Ricard.

Guy Brighton
  • 21 july 2011

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This article titled “Pernod loses legal challenge over staff drink test claim” was written by Kim Willsher in Paris, for The Guardian on Wednesday 20th July 2011 17.20 UTC

A French court has rejected an attempt by the drinks company Pernod Ricard to censor a book that claimed potential sales staff were expected to prove they could hold their drink by knocking back glasses of its celebrated anise-flavoured drink.

Some job applicants said they were subject to a “crash test” in which they had to drink up to 20 shots of the pastis before they were given the job.

The allegations are contained in the book Dealer Légal by the French journalist Max Coder, who spoke to several company employees.

The court of appeal upheld an earlier judgment that declared Coder had acted in good faith when he described how potential employees were expected to show they could hold their drink. Pernod Ricard had claimed defamation and sought €500,000 in damages.

Coder spoke to Ricard staff sent to promotional events where they claimed they were expected to “drink or make [others] drink”.

His book included an interview with Franck Daniel, a former salesman, who said the company’s attitude was: “The more one sold the more one was paid, and the more you were drinking the more you sold.”

One potential recruit told Coder they had been forced to drink “around 10 Ricard in the bar of the company restaurant”.

“I asked myself, had I impressed my bosses with my capacity to take it and recover,” said another, adding: “But if my job was really about boozing, it was best to take a break from time to time to keep going.”

Another said being able to drink was “an unwritten but real criteria for getting the job”, and that sales staff were advised to book a hotel room, paid for by the company, if they were too drunk to return home.

In its defence, the company said it had published a memo to its sales staff stipulating that “the excessive consumption of alcohol is not and should not be, here at Ricard, an attitude that leads to professional success”.

The court of appeal said this advice did not go far enough in outlining the alcohol limits and said those sued in the complaint should be given “the benefit of [having acted in] good faith”.

Pernod Ricard was ordered to pay €2,000 legal costs to the author and co-author of Dealer Légal, the editor and a company salesperson quoted in the book.

The French drinks giant was created from the Pernod Fils firm that produced absinthe, the celebrated but allegedly deadly drink favoured by Toulouse Lautrec, Van Gogh and Oscar Wilde in the late 19th century. Absinthe, nicknamed the Green Fairy, was banned in France in 1915.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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