A PUBLIC servant injured during after-hours sex on a work trip has had her highly publicised bid for workers compensation rejected by the High Court of Australia.
The ruling puts an end to a five-year long compensation case unusual for both the circumstances through which the injury occurred and the differing interpretations on what constituted employment activities.
While on a 2007 work trip in country New South Wales, the unnamed federal government employee was having sex with a male friend in her motel room when a light fitting dislodged and struck her in the face, required hospitalisation.
The woman claimed compensation for her injuries from the government’s OHS body ComCare, which was first approved and later revoked, the latter decision upheld in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The woman’s appeal to the Federal Court was successful in April 2012, with John Nicholas ruling the type of activity undertaken was irrelevant to the woman’s right to compensation. He said awarding compensation in this case was no different to had she been injured while playing cards in her motel room.
ComCare then lodged an appeal against the Federal Court decision, arguing four grounds including that it was not liable as the incident occurred after-hours and that the Federal Court was wrong in ruling the woman was injured ‘during the course of her employment’.
Last week the High Court accepted ComCare’s case that it was not liable for the incident.
Employment Minister Senator Eric Abetz called the ruling a ‘victory for common sense’.
“The High Court has taken a very welcome common sense approach that will see a more sensible approach prevail in the future,” Senator Abetz said.
“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.
“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.”
For any OHS-related advice, contact AMMA’s policy team via 1800 627 771.