In a bizarre employment case, a woman on a business trip successfully sued her employer when she was hit by a chandelier while having sex. A summary of the legal issues was supplied by Fox Rothschild LLP to Mondaq.
The woman, who worked in the HR department of an Australian government agency, was travelling for her employer and met a ‘friend’ in the motel room that had been reserved for her. “The respondent was injured whilst engaging in sexual intercourse when a glass light fitting above the bed was pulled from its mount and fell on her, causing injuries to her nose and mouth. She also suffered a psychological injury as a result,” according to the decision published by the Australian Federal Court.
Under the relevant legislation, the Safety, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Act 1988, the employer must pay compensation when an employee suffers an injury that results in death, incapacity for work, or impairment. However, they do not have to pay up if the injury is intentionally self-inflicted or the result of serious and wilful misconduct (unless the injury results in death or serious and permanent impairment).
In the Employment Tribunal, the employer defeated the claim by arguing that the woman’s injuries were not suffered during the course of her duties. The woman’s sexual activity was not encouraged by the employer, nor could it have been reasonably foreseen by the employer. The case would have been different, it seems, had she injured herself while showering, brushing her teeth, or sleeping in the motel room.
However, the Australian Federal Court reversed the decision of the lower court on the basis that there was a sufficient connection between her injuries and her employment. “The relevant connection or nexus to employment was present in this case by virtue of the fact that the [employee’s] injuries were suffered while she was in the motel room in which her employer had encouraged her to stay,” the court concluded.