Disabled woman sues company that paid her to do nothing for 20 years

By Minh Nga June 19, 2024 | 3:41 PM PT

A disabled French woman is suing telecom giant Orange for paying her full salary for 20 years without being assigned work. She claims she has been intimidated and discriminated against based on her health status.

Laurence Van Wassenhove was hired as a civil servant at France Telecom in 1993 before the company was taken over by Orange.

Her original employer knew that she was paralyzed on one side of her body, partially paralyzed of the face and limbs since birth, and suffered from epilepsy, so they offered her a job suitable for her health condition.

Wassenhove worked as a secretary and in human resources until she requested a transfer to another region in France in 2002. Her request was granted, but the new workplace did not meet her needs and an occupational health report confirmed the role was not suitable.

However, Orange reportedly did not make any adjustments to her job and opted to pay her full salary for the next twenty years without assigning her any work. Oddity Central reported.

Wassenhove reported the situation to the government and high-ranking anti-discrimination agencies.

In 2015, a mediator appointed by Orange was tasked with resolving the situation, but nothing improved as the company continued to pay her salary.

The woman filed a complaint earlier this week against the company and four of its managers for “harassment and moral discrimination in the workplace related to her health condition.”

Her lawyer argued that the telecom giant is trying to force her to resign.

The lawyer was quoted by The sun by saying: “For someone with a disability, work means having a place in society. Recognition. Social connections that arise.”

French newspaper La Dépêche contacted Orange about the matter and the company stated that it had done everything possible to ensure she worked under the best conditions.

The company claimed to have taken her ‘personal social circumstances’ into account and continuously paid her full salary, along with a portion of non-refundable support.

It was also said to have planned a ‘return to work in adjusted position’ policy, but that never happened as Wassenhove was regularly on sick leave.