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French Employer Found Liable For This Worker’s Death. If You Call This Working.

By  Hank Berrien
Photo by Gary Chalker/Getty Images

According to a French court, a railway construction and maintenance company is to be held liable for the work-related death of an employee — but wait until you read what work he was doing when he died.

Having sex with a woman he met on a business trip.

The employee of TSO, identified as Xavier, died February 21, 2013 in Meung-sur-Loire, in the woman’s home. TSO logically reasoned that the death was not work-related, because rather than happening in the hotel room they had booked for him, it occurred in the woman’s home.

But the French state health insurance CPAM went to court in 2013, asserting the death was the company’s responsibility; CPAM deals with cases in which a death or injury occurs away from the job itself.

TSO lost in court in June 2016, then appealed the decision. The company stated that the employee’s death was “not as a result of his work but because of the sexual act he had with a complete stranger.” CPAM countered that sexual relations were as normal as “taking a shower or eating a meal.” The court ruled by citing a law stating that employees are covered for their entire business trip, “whether the accident happened during a professional action or an everyday action.”

France 3 reported that, in May 2019, the justice stated the death was an accident at work, ruling that the employee “performing a mission is entitled to the protection provided by Article L 411 -1 of the Social Security Code during the entire time of the mission he performs for his employer.” France 3 added that the sexual liaison was an “adulterous sexual relationship,” and that attorney Sarah Balluet called the decision “very surprising,” adding that “the employer has the opportunity to demonstrate that this accident was unrelated to the professional activity.” She said, “This solution is new and deserves that the Court of Cassation decides on this point.”

The New York Times reported that Aurélien Boulanger, a lawyer at Gide, an international law firm based in Paris, stated, “There are even more extraordinary cases like that of an employee stung by a wasp while driving a car, considered as a work accident.” The Times wrote, “Once it was established that the accident had happened at a place of employment or during time spent on business, it was up to the employer to prove that the event had nothing to do with work, which could be very difficult,” he added.

The Times also stated that the French national health insurance fund decrees that the partner of a person who dies in a work-related accident is entitled to 40% of the deceased’s annual income as well as some of funeral costs.

There may be cause for hope for French employers: Forbes reported in November 2017, “According to the results of a new study, having sex is rarely the cause of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). In fact, when researchers examined more than 4,500 cases of cardiac arrest occurring in Portland, Oregon over a 10 year span, they found that only 34 of the cases were linked to having sex in the hour before.”

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