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Alleging harassment and discrimination, woman sues company that paid her to do nothing for 20 years

Laurence Van Wassenhove has been getting her full salary for the last 20 years even when she is doing no work for The Orange Telecom.
Cover Image Source: Woman sues telecoms company (representative image) | Pexels
Cover Image Source: Woman sues telecoms company (representative image) | Pexels

A French woman has sued her former employer for giving her no work despite giving her a salary. She filed a lawsuit against a large telecommunication company accusing of them intentionally barring her from work. Laurence Van Wassenhove got her full salary for the last 20 years even when she was doing no work for The Orange Telecom.

Tagging herself as the "outcast" she filed a complaint to the government and High Authority for the Fight against Discrimination but nothing much happened. Now, she has sued the company on the grounds of moral harassment and discrimination at work linked to her health.

The trained HR assistant reportedly suffers from severe health issues including epilepsy and hemiplegia, a paralysis that only affects one side of the body, which barred her from being able to work. Wassenhove, who is a mother of two children, one of whom is autistic says that she faced eviction and struggled to make ends meet despite being paid her full salary.


Wassenhove, who was initially hired as a civil servant by France-Télécom in 1993, was later offered the role of a secretary to accommodate her health needs. After the company was taken over by Orange, Laurence requested a transfer to another region of France in 2002, which is when her problem began. The company conducted an occupational medicine report that confirmed that the position was not suitable for her, which resulted in her being put on standby, and later on sick leave before offering her retirement due to her disability. 

The mother of two says that her complaint to the government and High Authority for the Fight against Discrimination was later mandated but failed to help her. She feels as if she is wasting herself in a way by being kept in her home, "Being paid, at home, not working is not a privilege. It's very hard to bear," she told The Sun.


Her lawyer, Me David Nabet-Martin claimed that she is suffering from depression due to her severe and isolating circumstances. Mr Nabet-Martin says: "Work, for a person with a disability, means having a place in society. Recognition. Social connections that are created."

In another statement to a French newspaper La Dépêche, the company said that they had done everything in their control to make sure that Laurence was working in the best conditions and also claimed to have taken her "personal social situation" into account. They added that they had also worked a "return to work in adapted position" but it didn't work out as Wassenhove started taking sick leaves frequently.


The French multinational telecommunications company has more than 266 million customers worldwide and employs more than 89,000 people in France and another 59,000 people worldwide. In 2023, the company reportedly made a revenue of €43 ($46.14) billion. The company has been known for its mobile, landline, internet, and internet protocol television services since 2006. The company later became a subsidiary of Mannesmann in 1999 and was later acquired by France Télécom in 2000. On 1 July 2013, France Télécom was rebranded to Orange, as per the group's official site.