Sexual harassment is prohibited by the Austrian Equal Treatment Act (“Gleichbehandlungsgesetz”) passed in 2004 and by the Federal Equal Treatment Act (“Bundes-Gleichbehandlungsgesetz”) passed in 1993. Since then, there have been amendments due to European Union legislation. The rules in both acts follow the same scheme and address:
- sex-related harassment i.e. unwanted conduct related to the protected characteristic of sex;
- harassment of a sexual nature i.e. unwanted conduct of a sexual nature.
(Sexual) harassment is subject to the Equal Treatment Act if it (1) results in an intimidating, hostile or humiliating work environment for the people concerned or this conduct is aimed to do so, or (2) if it results in a less or more favourable treatment based on a person's rejection of, or submission to, sex-related harassment or sexual harassment.
Section 6 Austrian Equal Treatment Act prohibits harassment:
- by the employer,
- by a third party related to the employment,
- by a third party not related to the employment.
The Act also holds the employer liable if he or she fails to provide a remedy against (sexual) harassment.
The Employee Welfare Act of 4 August 1996 prohibits violence, bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace.
Violence in the workplace means any factual situation in which a worker is threatened mentally or physically in performing their work. (The definition of violence is wide enough to include a threat - there is no need for physical violence.)
Bullying in the workplace can involve several similar or different instances of behaviour within the workplace or out of working hours with the aim or result of (i) harming the character, dignity or physical or mental integrity of a worker in the performance of their work or (ii) threatening their job or (iii) creating an intimidating and hostile environment.
Sexual harassment means any form or verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct with a sexual connotation whose aim is to harm someone’s dignity or to create an intimidating and hostile environment.
In 2014, major changes were made to the Employee Welfare Act of 4 August 1996, in order to improve the protections around violence, bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Social Penal Code punishes anyone who commits acts of violence, bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace. The Social Penal Code is dedicated to criminal actions in the framework of an employment relationship. There is also a General Penal Code for all other criminal actions. Criminal sanctions are applicable in case of workplace violence, bullying or sexual harassment.