Mixing Business With Pleasure: Compensable

It has long been accepted that workers injured in the course of a business trip are eligible for compensation, so long as the purpose of the trip inures to the benefit of the employer, at least partially.  A recent Australian court took this a step further when it ruled that a government employee who was injured during sex in her hotel room while on a business trip, be paid for her resulting physical injuries and lost wages. Apparently, while so engaged with a companion, a glass lighting fixture came loose above the bed, and struck her in the nose and mouth, causing injuries that required medical attention. Initially, the government insurer, Comcare (you cannot make this up), approved the claim, but then rejected it, arguing that her injuries should not be covered under workers’ compensation, since sexual activity was not a requirement of her employment, nor was it an “ordinary incident of an overnight stay” in a hotel, such as showering or sleeping. On December 13, 2012, however, Australian Federal Court Judge John Nicholas overturned that decision and supported the claimant’s rights to coverage, on the basis that simply being in the hotel room was a result of her employment, and that her activity at the time was irrelevant, and should not be subject to scrutiny or judgment on the part of the tribunal. While she might very well also have justification for a third-party negligence claim on the issue of substandard hotel maintenance, it was ruled that she was entitled to benefits through her workers’ compensation coverage. According to a Comcare spokesman, the insurer is considering an appeal to the High Court, Australia’s highest legal authority. If the decision stands, it may give new meaning to the idea of mixing business with pleasure.