We’ve been following a case in which a woman on a business trip was injured during sex in her motel room and applied for workers’ comp. Finally, this case has reached its judicial end point, and it turns out to be a significant workers’ comp case for employers.
The Australian government worker, whose name has been withheld, was required to travel and stay overnight to attend a meeting the next day.
She met a friend for dinner. Afterward, they went back to her hotel room and had sex.
During intercourse, a glass light fixture above the bed was pulled from its mount. It fell, injuring the woman’s nose and mouth. The psychological impact was so great she also claimed post-traumatic stress disorder.
An administrative panel found her injuries were unrelated to employment. On appeal, a judge of the Federal Court of Australia set aside the panel’s decision.
This was upheld by the Full Court of the Federal Court. It found the woman’s injuries occurred in an “interval or interlude” during an overall period of work and should be considered within the normal course of her employment.
The insurance company, Comcare, appealed to Australia’s High Court — its equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The High Court found the incident didn’t arise as a result of work. A summary of the court ruling said:
“The relevant question is: Did the employer induce or encourage the employee to engage in that activity?”
Six of eight judges on the court said the answer to that question was “No.”
Two judges wrote a dissenting opinion. They said the woman was at a motel where her employer encouraged her to be and the overnight stay was within the overall work period.
Australia’s Employment Minister calls the ruling a victory for common sense.
Australian National University law lecturer Cameron Roles said the ruling reduced the range of after-hours activities covered by workers’ comp when an employee was away from home on business.
Roles said after this ruling, it would be difficult to predict which non-work activities would and wouldn’t be covered when someone is traveling for business. It would probably have to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
What do you think about the court’s ruling? Let us know in the comments below.