As we reported earlier during the year, the federal government’s insurer Comcare was granted an appeal to the High Court of Australia for a fascinating case in which a woman was awarded compensation for injuries incurred during a work trip in 2007. As World News reported, during the course of the woman’s employment, she was sent to Nowra for an overnight stay to conduct budget reviews. She met with a friend of the opposite sex, who came back to her hotel room and engaged in what would appear to have been vigorous sexual activity with her. After a light fitting fell onto her face and caused her not only physical injury but post-traumatic stress, the woman brought a claim to workplace safety body Comcare and was awarded compensation for “facial and psychological injuries”. Comcare was able to revoke this payout after the Administrative Appeals Tribunal found that sex was not an “ordinary incident of overnight stay”, however the injured woman fought this and succeeded in the Federal Court, with the judge finding that her safety during the entire business trip was the responsibility of her employer, and the hotel featuring the faulty light fitting was chosen by her employer.
At long last, the final verdict is out: the seven justices of the High Court have ruled that Comcare is not liable for any compensation to this woman because her employer did not encourage her to partake in sexual activity while on the business trip. Justice Gleeson SC said that being “fed, watered, showered and rested” was the extent of the employer’s relationship with an employee required to travel for work. Pursuits of a personal purpose are subject to further inquiry, and one cannot help but wonder if a moral judgement has been applied to the final ruling. As the woman’s barrister pointed out, if she had been eating a sandwich when the fitting fell down, she might have received compensation with less “questions asked”. This ruling is likely to affect future cases involving injury sustained during activities of a personal nature while on business trips.