A federal public servant, who suffered injuries to her nose and mouth after a hotel light fixture fell on her while she was having sex on a work trip, will now have her case heard in Australia’s High Court.
The full bench of the Federal Court found that the employee, known only as “PVYW,” was entitled to a payout from the Commonwealth government. This was apparently because she sustained her personal injuries during the course of her employment.
The court indicated that it did not matter how the woman spent her nights during the work trip because she was still, in effect, at work. The court also stressed that the woman did not need to show that her employer induced or encouraged her to have sex and that her “lawful sexual activity” was not misconduct for which she should or could be punished.
The woman, who is in her late 30s, met up with a male friend while she was on a work trip. While the two were having sex in the woman’s hotel room, a glass light fixture above the bed fell and struck the woman, resulting in injuries to her nose and mouth. As a result of her injuries, the woman suffered depression and anxiety and was unable to return to work.
The High Court has granted the woman’s employer special leave to appeal the court’s decision. The issue will be whether an injury that occurs to an employee “during an interval or interlude” in an overall work episode is deemed to have occurred in the course of employment.
Lawyers for the employer say that the court’s decision poses a huge burden on employers, who must now find some way of insulating themselves against non-work protected behavior during times when work is not being undertaken.
If the court holds that the woman’s employer is responsible, there will be a huge impact on work events, retreats and parties that occur outside the work premises.
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