Sex Now Considered Part Of Work Trip Compo Coverage
Many eyebrows were raised when a court recently ruled that a woman injured during a sexual tryst in her hotel room while on a work trip was entitled to workers’ compensation.
You’d be tempted ask whether sex was now legally a regular part of a business trip? Can you sue someone for bad sex? Maybe you can get compensation if you don’t get sex on a business trip?
Sadly it doesn’t open those possibilities. The case spun on the legal definition of an injury in the course of employment.
The woman, a commonwealth public servant in her 30s, had been sent in 2007 to a regional NSW town on business by her employer. While staying at a motel she contacted a male friend who lived locally. He came to her motel room and, in the excitement of their sexual tryst, a glass light fitting came away from the wall above the bed, hitting her on the face. Her nose and lips were badly cut and she was taken to hospital.
She initially took her case to ComCare, the federal government workplace safety body, saying it left her with facial and psychological injuries. It rejected her claim.
She appealed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal but it upheld ComCare’s decision. The Tribunal ruled sexual activity was not an ordinary incident on an overnight work trip such as showering or sleeping. It said the woman was involved in a “recreational activity that wasn’t induced, encouraged or countenanced by her employer”.
She took her case to the Federal Court. Her barrister argued sex was a normal part of life and often took place in motel rooms.
ComCare’s lawyer argued while sex was normal, it wasn’t necessary like sleeping and showering.
It wasn’t clear from evidence whether the woman or the man pulled the glass fitting from the wall. In a statement to the court the man thought the woman was on her back when the light fell “but I wasn’t paying attention because we were rolling around.”
Last April Justice John Nicholas ruled the woman was engaged in a lawful recreational activity and the injury happened during the course of her employment.
“If the applicant 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.”
The judge ordered ComCare to pay her legal costs.
Who said public servants don’t get down to business?