Australian court upholds workers’ compensation claim for business trip sex injury

Full bench of Federal Court agrees that activity was unimportant — her presence in hotel room was work-related

An Australian woman’s claim for workers’ compensation for an injury suffered while having sex on a business trip has been upheld by the Australia Federal Court.

The woman, in her late 30s, worked for the Australian government and was sent on a business trip to Nowra, New South Wales, in 2007. It was an overnight trip, so she stayed in a hotel chosen by her government employer at its expense.

The employee met a friend while in Nowra and they had sex in her motel room. While they were having sex, a light fixture on the wall above the bed fell off and hit the woman in the face, injuring her nose and mouth. The worker later filed a workers’ compensation claim for her physical injuries and depression 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, rejected the 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.

The woman appealed and the Federal Court found the activity she was doing when she was hurt didn’t have to be encouraged or implied by the employer. Without any specific misconduct, her presence in the motel room when she was injured was enough to warrant compensation, said the court.

"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.

Comcare appealed and the full bench of the Federal Court upheld the ruling that the fact the employee was in the hotel room at the employer’s instruction was enough to make her eligible for compensation.

"No approval, express or implied, of the respondent's conduct was required," said the court.

There was no indication of the amount the woman would be awarded. Comcare told the Associated Press it was considering an appeal to Australia’s High Court.

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