Sex injury on business trip leads to workers’ compensation claim

Australian employee claims injury in company-paid motel room was in the course of employment
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 08/05/2011

A woman in Australia may have set a new precedent for workers’ compensation claims: Claiming an injury after getting hurt in the bedroom.

The woman was a Australian government employee who was asked to visit a regional office in New South Wales, Australia. Since it was a long trip, she had to spend the night in a motel, which her employer selected and paid for.

While staying at the hotel, the woman met up with an “acquaintance” she knew in town and the two ended up having sex in her motel room. However, during the hot and heavy session, a light fixture fell off the wall and hit her in the face. The woman then filed a workers’ compensation claim for injuries to her nose, mouth and tooth, as well as a “psychiatric” injury stemming from the incident. She argued she was entitled to compensation because she was at the hotel on business and therefore the injuries happened in the course of employment.

The Australian government’s workplace safety organization initially rejected the woman’s claim, but she took the matter to federal court, saying sexual activity was “an ordinary lawful incident of life that may be foreseeably undertaken by an employee such as the applicant in a motel room during an interval or interlude in a period of employment involving an overnight stay.”

“She was a single woman who met up for a social evening with a man she already knew in the town she had gone to on business,” the woman’s lawyer, Leo Grey, told the Toronto Star. “There was no suggestion of any misconduct or failure to follow departmental guidelines.”

The workers’ compensation insurer is continuing to fight the claim, arguing the woman wasn’t required to have sex and therefore the activity fell outside the course of employment. The federal court judge has reserved his decision.

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