A 30-year-old woman known by the pen name Zoe Shepard who worked for the Aquitaine regional authority in south-west France since 2007 and wrote a book portraying her colleagues as slackers who hold long meetings without ever coming to a decision risks being suspended from her job. Absolument Debordée (Absolutely Snowed Under), carries the subtitle “How to work 35 hours . . . in one month”. The author describes how she managed to do in a few hours what her colleagues would do in a week and scoffed at the “magic words” she served up to the jury during the highly-selective interview process. “One day, I was given a five-day assignment to change the font on a document. There were also the never-ending aimless meetings . . . and the waste. That was really shocking,” she wrote. Small wonder the national civil service—five million strong, by far the country’s largest employer—attracts the aspirations of many young French graduates, who dream of becoming state functionaries. But the civil service belied its reputation for lethargy (if not for job security) in its response to Shepard’s book, published in March; last week a disciplinary committee of the Aquitaine regional council recommended “Zoe Shepard” be, not fired, but suspended from her post for two years without pay. “The words used were extremely offensive and they constitute an unprecedented lapse in terms of the duty to preserve confidentiality,” said Bernard Boyer, the lawyer for the regional council. A final decision now rests with the regional council which has a month to rule on the suspension.