Injury during sex on business trip deserving of workers’ compensation: Australian court

Light fell off wall onto woman while having sex in company-supplied motel room; Court overruled initial rejection of claim
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 04/26/2012

An Australian woman has won her claim for workers’ compensation after she was injured while having sex on a business trip.

The woman, in her late 30s, was an employee of the Australian government who was sent on a business trip in New South Wales. It was an overnight trip, so her employer chose a motel for her to spend the night at its expense.

While staying at the hotel, the woman met up with friend and they had sex in her motel room. However, while they were having sex, a light fixture fell off the wall above the bed and hit the woman in the face, injuring her nose, mouth and tooth. The worker later filed a workers’ compensation claim for her facial injuries, 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 she was hurt while in the course of employment.

Comcare, the Australian government’s workplace safety organization, initially rejected the woman’s claim, finding that her activity at the time she suffered her injuries was not related to work. The organization’s Administrative Appeals Tribunal upheld the decision, ruling that sex wasn’t an “ordinary incident of an overnight stay” that could be expected on the business trip, nor was it encouraged by the employer.

However, the woman appealed to Australia’s Federal Court, which ruled in her favour. The court found it wasn’t necessary for her to prove the activity she was doing when she suffered the injuries was encouraged or implied by the employer. Without any specific misconduct, the court found her presence in the motel room when she was hurt was enough to warrant compensation.

"If the (employee) had been injured while playing a game of cards in her motel room she would be entitled to compensation even though it could not be said that her employer induced or encouraged her to engage in such an activity," said the court.

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