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

By Minh Nga   June 19, 2024 | 03:41 pm PT
A disabled French woman is suing telecoms giant Orange for paying her full salary for 20 years without assigning any work, alleging harassment and discrimination based on her health condition.

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

Her original employer was aware that she was paralyzed on one side of her body, had partial facial and limb paralysis since birth, and suffered from epilepsy, so they offered her a position suitable for her health condition.

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

However, Orange reportedly did not make any adjustments to her job, choosing to pay her full salary for the next 20 years without assigning her any work, Oddity Central reported.

Wassenhove reported the situation to the government and high-level 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 earlier this week filed a complaint against the company and four of its managers for "harassment and moral discrimination at 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 as saying that: "Work, for a person with a disability, means having a place in society. Recognition. Social connections that are created."

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

The company claimed to have taken into account her "personal social circumstances" and continuously paid her full salary along with some non-refundable support.

It also said to have planned "a return to work in adapted position" policy but that has never happened as Wassenhove was regularly on sick leave.

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