French Twist


If you thought the French were strange for liking Jerry Lewis, get a load of this: The French government is cracking down on people who work too much.

Employees trying to work more than the legal limit of 39 hours a week can expect to be harassed by the government, reports The Washington Post. Labor inspectors have been found counting cars after hours in parking lots, checking office entry-and-departure records, and grilling people about their work schedules. Several companies have been fined for allowing employees, including managers, to work longer than is legally allowed. As a researcher at the Center for the Study of Labor in Paris told the Post, "Even a top manager does not have the right to work more than [they're legally allowed to]. It has to do with security and public order."

Of course, maintaining "security and public order" threatens to disrupt France's way of life in another way that's not entirely lost on Frenchmen. "We are in world-wide competition. If we lose one point of productivity, we lose orders," Henri Thierry, an executive at Thomson-CSF Communications, told the Post. Thomson-CSF was fined the equivalent of $2 million for 2,000 overtime law violations in three months. Thierry is even less pleased with a proposal favored by the Socialist government to shorten the legal work week to 35 hours. "If we're obligated to go to 35 hours, it would be like requiring French athletes to run the 100 meters wearing flippers," he said. They wouldn't have much chance of winning a medal."