During a business trip to a construction site, an employee was found dead of a heart attack in a room after having had sexual intercourse with a “complete stranger” he met during the day. The employer completed the usual formalities by informing the social security authorities of the death and the circumstances. The social security authorities decided to treat the death as being work-related, which was contested by the employer.

The company’s arguments before the Paris Court of Appeal were as follows:

– the employee’s death occurred when he had knowingly interrupted his mission for a personal reason, independent of his employment, to have an adulterous relationship with a stranger,

– the employee was no longer under the responsibility of his employer at the time of death and the death occurred for a personal reason,

– the heart attack is not work-related because it resulted from the sexual activity

The Court of Appeal in a decision of 17th May 2019 dismissed the employer’s claims and acknowledged the death as a work-related accident.

The qualification of work-related accident (“accident de travail”) allowed the heirs to receive compensation from the social security fund. It also had the effect of increasing the rate of the contribution to the work-related accident compensation which must be paid by the employer.

Although the decision may look surprising, it results from the very wide definition of what constitutes a work-related accident. Indeed, French Law grants protection to employees on business trips and makes no distinction between accidents that occur during a professional act or an act of everyday life.

For example, in a previous case, a court decided to qualify as a work-related accident an incident where an employee injured his leg whilst out for the evening at a night club. What may be more unusual is the fact that the court of appeal considered that sexual intercourse, even extra-marital sex on a business trip, is an act of daily life, in the court’s words, just like taking a shower or having a meal.

Thus, the Court of Appeal ruled that the employee had not interrupted his mission to perform an act unrelated to that mission. The court also held that the fact that the accident did not occur in the hotel room booked by the company did not mean that the employee was no longer under the authority of his employer.

The Employer may decide to lodge a claim before the Supreme Court and it would be most interesting to see whether the Supreme Court will confirm the analysis of the Court of Appeal.

 

 

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