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Sex on the job worker wins damages

A woman injured while having sex in an Australian hotel during a business trip has won the latest round in her legal battle for industrial compensation.

She needed hospital treatment after being injured while in bed with a friend in the town of Nowra, 100 miles south of her hometown of Sydney.

A glass light fitting was torn from its mount above the bed and landed on her face, injuring her nose and mouth. She later suffered depression and was unable to continue in her job as a civil servant.

Her claim for worker's compensation for her physical and psychological injuries was initially approved by government insurer Comcare, then rejected after further investigation.

A tribunal agreed with Comcare that her injuries were not suffered in the course of her employment, saying the government had not induced or encouraged the woman's sexual conduct. The tribunal also found the sex was "not an ordinary incident of an overnight stay" such as showering, sleeping and eating.

That ruling was overturned in the Federal Court, when Judge John Nicholas rejected the tribunal's findings that the sex had to be condoned by the government if she were to qualify for compensation.

"If the applicant had been injured while playing a game of cards in her motel room, she would be entitled to compensation even though it could not be said that her employer induced her to engage in such activity," he ruled.

Finally the Full Bench of the Federal Court has ruled in favour of the woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons.

In upholding Judge Nicholas' decision, the court agreed that the government's views on the woman having sex in her motel room were irrelevant.

"No approval, express or implied, of the respondent's conduct was required," they said.

It is not yet clear how much compensation will be paid.

Comcare was considering an appeal to the High Court, Australia's highest legal authority.

"The issue is a significant one," a spokesman said. "Workers need to be clear about their entitlements and employers should have an understanding of their responsibilities and how to support their staff."

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