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 Protection from Harassment Act (Cap. 256A) (“POHA”) came into force on 15 November 2014 to protect persons against harassment and unlawful stalking and to create offences and provide civil remedies in relation to the same. On 1 January 2020, the POHA was amended to include protections against and offences in respect of “doxing”, which refers to the act of publishing private or identifying information about a particular individual.
The object of the POHA is not the prevention of workplace or sexual harassment per se, but to provide a statutory instrument protecting persons against harassment in general.
Section 3 of POHA provides:
No person shall, with intent to cause harassment, alarm, or distress to another person, by any means -
- use any threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour;
- make any threatening, abusive or insulting communication; or
- publish any identity information of the target person or a related person of the target person,
and as a result causing the target person or any other person (each called in this section the victim) harassment, alarm or distress.”
Section 7 of POHA provides that “An individual or entity must not unlawfully stalk another person” and sub-section (3) provides some examples of acts or omissions associated with stalking.
The Ministry of Manpower describes workplace harassment as “behaviour that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to another party” and cites sexual harassment as an example.
The Penal Code (Cap. 223) also contain provisions relating to offences involving words or gestures intended to insult the modesty of a woman and assault or use of criminal force to a person with an intent to outrage the person’s modesty.