A court in France has ordered TSO, a company specialised in building railway tracks, to pay the family of a worker who died while having sex on an official assignment.
The technician was sent to Meung-sur-Loire in February 2013, on a business trip before he suffered a heart attack while having sex with a woman he had met on the trip.
The last the company heard of the man, identified in court papers as Mr Xavier, was when they received a call to say he had suffered a heart attack and died.
France’s health insurance fund ruled that the man’s death was an industrial accident and ordered TSO to compensate his family, a decision which was challenged in court.
After losing a first appeal before a social security tribunal, the company took the matter to the Paris Court of Appeal which confirmed the lower court decision in May, according to the ruling seen by AFP.
The judgement, which only came to the attention of local media in recent days, found that having sex was as normal as “taking a shower or having a meal” and that Mr Xavier was still entitled to his company’s protection.
The company argued the man was not working when having “an adulterous affair with a perfect stranger”.
Rouen-based lawyer and lecturer Sarah Balluet, who brought the case to public attention on social media, said it lowered the bar for workplace accidents.
Under French law, an employee is considered at work for the entire duration of a business trip, unless the company proves otherwise.
Balluet argued that in her view by engaging in sex the technician had “removed himself from his employer’s authority”.
But the court ruled that TSO had “failed to provide proof that the employee broke off his mission to perform an act that was completely separate from it”.
Balluet described the ruling as “surprising” compared with previous rulings by the Cour de Cassation, France’s highest court, “which has always attempted to establish whether or not the employee was carrying out his professional duties.”
Neither TSO nor its lawyers were available to comment on the case, which has put employers in a bind.
“The question companies are asking themselves now is whether they need to expressly forbid workers from having sex during a business trip,” Balluet said.