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Motel sex romp compo decision hailed as common sense

November 12, 2013 Headline News, Hotel News 1 Comment Email Email

egtmedia59A High Court decision on an infamous motel sex case has been hailed by Australia’s Minister for Employment as “a victory for common sense”.

The case concerned the right to workers’ compensation for a woman who was injured when a light fitting was wrenched from its mounting and fell on her while she was having sex with a male companion during a business trip.

The woman, a federal civil servant, has now had her claim for worker’s compensation quashed by the highest court in the land, the High Court.Mulia-Bali

Senator Eric Abetz welcomed the High Court’s decision to allow workers’ compensation agency ComCare’s appeal in the case.

Abetz’s reaction, and the case itself, are relevant to employers in Australia and to the hotel industry, which is why the Accommodation Association of Australia has run Abetz’s comments on its website.

The roots of the case lie in an incident in which the woman concerned took a male friend to the motel room that her employer had booked for her, during her business trip to a regional town. While she and the man were having sex there, either her or her partner pulled a glass light fitting from its mounting and it crashed down on her head.

The woman injured her nose and mouth. She claimed psychological injury as well, saying she had been mentally scarred when the light was pulled down during intercourse. She lodged a claim with Comcare and the case has see-sawed between courts ever since.

The legal argument related to whether someone is covered while having sex on a work trip. In 2010 the Administrative Appeals Tribunal rejected the woman’s claim. In 2012, however, the Federal Court saw the matter differently, and ruled that the woman was entitled to make the claim.

The High Court has now overturned that decision. In a majority ruling, Chief Justice French and Justices Hayne, Crennan and Kiefel said the fact the woman was encouraged to be at the motel was not sufficient to allow her claim to stand.

Although two other judges on the High Court bench dissented and would have allowed the compensation claim, the majority ruling holds that “for an injury to be in the course of employment, the employee must be doing the very thing that the employer encouraged the employee to do, when the injury occurs”.

Presumably sexual intercourse does not usually fall into that category, though the judges noted that if the light fitting had been insecurely fastened and had simply fallen on the woman’s head, “the injury suffered by her would have arisen by reference to the motel”.

Commenting afterwards, Abetz said: “The High Court has taken a very welcome common sense approach that will see a more sensible approach prevail in the future.

“This decision protects the currency of work place safety which was in serious danger of being trivialised by this claim.

“This decision also means that the definition of ‘work-related injury’ is more clearly defined.

“It’s important in Australian workplaces that we have a form of ‘mutual obligation’ where employees and employers both work together and are prepared to accept personal responsibility.”

“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. I commend ComCare on its stand and willingness to see this matter through to the highest court in the land,” Abetz said.

Written by : Peter Needham

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. gnits says:

    …when you are on a work trip whether you are sleeping, taking a shower or brushing your teeth, you’re still on a work trip…although you finish your work at 5pm it doesn’t mean you are no longer on a work trip…truth is you are trapped in a place which is not home that’s why my employer also pays me days in lieu corresponding to days I was away because, yeah, I cannot get home because my work trapped me there at that place… whether you are having sex or not when accident like this happens on a work trip I still feel the employer is liable….

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