‘Hard to bear’: French woman paid to do no work for 20 years sues company for discrimination

French woman sues company after getting paid for 20 years with no work

A French woman, Laurence Van Wassenhove, has sued telecom company Orange for moral harassment and workplace discrimination.

This is despite the company paying Ms Wassenhove her full salary for 20 years, even though she did not do any work for them due to her health conditions.

Claims she was shelved at work due to her disability

According to The Sun, Ms Wassenhove found her situation unbearable even though she was paid to do nothing for 20 years at Orange. She also alleges that the company was trying to force her to resign.

Ms Wassenhove suffers from epilepsy and hemiplegia. The health conditions have paralysed one side of her body and made her unable to work.

french woman sued company

Source: La Dépêche

The mother of two was initially employed by Orange, previously known as France-Télécom, in 1993 as a civil servant.

She was then offered a secretary position instead to adapt to her health conditions.

Two years after Orange took over the company in 2000, Ms Wassenhove requested to leave Paris and move to another region in France.

Source: @OrangeGroupPR on X

In 2004, Orange conducted a medical assessment that confirmed her job wasn’t suitable for her health. It first put her on standby, then on sick leave, and finally offered her retirement because of her disability.

The company continued to keep her as an employee and paid her full salary while not assigning her any work to do.

Describing herself as “an outcast secretary”, Ms Wassenhove claims Orange intentionally did this to pressure her into leaving her job.

She sues Orange for harassment and discrimination at work

After she reported the situation to the Government and high-level discrimination authorities in 2015, Orange appointed a mediator to resolve the issue. However, there was little improvement made.

“Being paid, at home, [and] not working is not a privilege. It’s very hard to bear,” Ms Wassenhove said, who felt like she was wasting away.

Her lawyer, Mr David Nabet-Martin, said that Ms Wassenhove is suffering from depression as a result of her isolating circumstances.

french woman sued company

Source: La Dépêche

“Work, for a person with a disability, means having a place in society. Recognition. Social connections that are created,” said Mr Nabet-Martin.

The lawyer sent Orange a notice in 2023 demanding a suitable position or compensation for her but did not receive a response.

In 2024, Ms Wassenhove filed a complaint for workplace harassment and discrimination related to her health condition.

According to French newspaper La Dépêche, Orange said that it had followed Ms Wassenhove’s situation with empathy and kindness.

Because of her “personal social situation”, her salary has been maintained at 100% and several non-repayable aids have been granted to her.

The company added that it had plans to bring Ms Wassenhove back to work in an adapted position, but it never happened because she was regularly on sick leave.

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Featured image adapted from French newspaper La Dépêche and @OrangeGroupPR on X.

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