The bureaucrat, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was hospitalized in November 2007 after a glass light fitting above a bed she was having sex in fell onto her face injuring her nose and mouth. The woman also suffered psychological injury.
The woman was visiting a regional office observing the budget review process, meeting regional staff and undertaking training — and staying in a motel room booked by her employer.
According to the court transcript the fitting was pulled from its mount either by the woman or by her acquaintance.
The important test case was brought by Comcare, the government’s insurer, which said it centered on whether the woman was “considered ‘in the course of employment’ for workers’ compensation purposes.”
The ruling, which would have flow-on effects for other compensation cases, shows that in order to be eligible for compensation Australian workers must be “expressly or impliedly induced or encouraged by the employer” to undertake an activity which leads to injury.
There was no suggestion that the sexual activity was work-related.
In addition, the court found the activity was “not an ordinary incident of an overnight stay like showering, sleeping, eating, or returning to the place of residence from a social occasion elsewhere in the vicinity.”
If the light fitting had been faulty however, the woman would have been entitled to compensation since she was at the motel at the encouragement of her employer, the court found.
The woman was originally granted compensation by the Full Bench of the Federal Court in December of last year, a decision the High Court has now reversed.
The case was decided in a 4-1 decision.