In 'surprising' ruling, French firm liable for worker who died after sex on business trip

PARIS • Should a heart attack during an adulterous tryst on a business trip count as a work-related accident? A French court has ruled it should, surprising even seasoned watchers of the country's protective legislation.

In February 2013, a company sent a technician on a business trip to Meung-sur-Loire in north-central France.

The last the company heard of the man identified in court papers as Mr Xavier was when it received a call to say he had suffered a heart attack and died after having sex at the home of a woman he had met on the trip.

France's health insurance fund ruled the man's death an industrial accident and ordered the company 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's decision in May.

The judgment 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 that the man was not working when having "an adulterous affair with a perfect stranger".

Under French law, an employee is considered at work for the entire duration of a business trip, unless the company proves otherwise.

Rouen-based lawyer and lecturer Sarah Balluet described the ruling as "surprising" compared with previous rulings by the Court of Cassation, France's highest court, "which has always attempted to establish whether or not the employee was carrying out his professional duties".

Neither the company 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," Ms Balluet said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2019, with the headline 'In 'surprising' ruling, French firm liable for worker who died after sex on business trip'. Print Edition | Subscribe