An Australian woman injured when a motel room light fitting fell and hit her while she was having sex on a business trip failed in a bid for workers’ compensation yesterday.
The public servant suffered injuries to her nose, mouth and a tooth, and said she was mentally scarred when the light was pulled down by either her or her partner during intercourse.
Her employer had booked the room and she claimed she should receive damages from the federal government because the 2007 incident happened while she was on official business.
However, after a four-year legal saga, the High Court ruled that the woman, whose name was suppressed, was not engaged in a specifically work-related activity at the time and denied her any payout.
“When the circumstances of an injury involve the employee engaging in an activity at the time of the injury, the relevant question is: Did the employer induce or encourage the employee to engage in that activity?” the court said. “On the facts of the respondent’s case, the majority held that the answer to that question was ‘no,’” it said in a final ruling.
Australian Employment Minister Eric Abetz called it a victory for common sense.
“This decision protects the currency of workplace safety, which was in serious danger of being trivialized by this claim,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “This decision also means that the definition of ‘work-related injury’ is more clearly defined. Instances such as this where an employee seeks to stretch the boundaries of entitlements are of great concern and the High Court’s intervention is welcome.”
The woman initially applied to Comcare, the government’s workplace safety agency, for compensation in 2009 and the claim was accepted, only to be later revoked.
The case then rumbled on for several years, through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the Federal Court and finally the High Court. She now has no other avenue of appeal.
In opposing the claim, Comcare said the sex was with an acquaintance who had nothing to do with work and that she was on a “frolic of her own.”