EMPLOYEES are unlikely to be stopped from taking lovers on business trips despite a court finding a public servant was entitled to compensation after being injured while having sex on a work trip.
The Federal Court found that the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, suffered her injuries in the course of her employment when a glass light fitting came away from the wall above her motel bed.
But it is unlikely to be a legally significant precedent, or one that moves employers to forbid workers from taking lovers on business trips in the name of limiting their liability.
There won’t be a rash of claims and it won’t alter the behaviour of employers or insurers,” said Robert Guthrie, the adjunct professor of workers’ compensation at Curtin University.
The decision is the latest in a chain of cases where the Federal Court has found travelling workers are entitled to compensation even if they are injured while doing something not strictly connected to work, so long as it is not illegal or involves wilful misconduct.
The landmark precedent – and one to which the judge presiding over the motel case referred to frequently – was the 1992 case of Hatzimanolis v ANI Corporation.
Mr Hatzimanolis, an electrician on a remote West Australian site, was invited to a picnic organised by his boss at a weekend. He was injured in a car accident on the way back.
After a battle played out in lower courts, the High Court ruled that because Mr Hatzimanolis was injured during an interval in his work he was entitled to compensation.
A number of cases have tested the limits of the precedent but the court has upheld a broad definition of when travelling employees can claim compensation.
In McCurry v Lamb, a shearer was left a paraplegic after he was shot by a workmate as he lay asleep next to his lover in workers’ quarters on a sheep station. The court found that the injury had occurred in the course of his employment and that his employer was liable.
Two years ago a Qantas pilot successfully appealed to the Workers Compensation Commission after he was injured when his car was hit by a drunk driver while on a stopover in Los Angeles.
“The whole time [employees are] away from home, they’re covered by workers compensation if they’re doing normal activities,” said Professor Harold Luntz of Melbourne University.