Employees may receive support from their works council or trade union, the Austrian Chamber of Labour, or the Ombudsman for Equal Treatment (“Gleichbehandlungsanwaltschaft”). All the bodies mentioned can initiate legal proceedings at the Equal Treatment Commission (“Gleichbehandlungskommission”). Additionally, the employee can claim compensation in front of labour courts.
The employee is entitled to a minimum compensation of EUR 1,000.00 for the personal detriment suffered. Moreover, any other financial loss must be compensated.
Swiss law provides for a variety of legal remedies.
Employees who have been sexually harassed may suspend their work, and employers must continue to pay their salary during the suspension period.
Victims of sexual harassment may also lawfully terminate their contract of employment with immediate effect. In such cases, employees are entitled to damages equivalent to the amount they would have earned had the employment relationship ended after the ordinary notice period (usually 3 months).
Besides suspension and immediate termination of employment, victims of sexual harassment may bring an action against employers before the competent conciliation board, a court or the administrative body. To this effect, they may apply for an order prohibiting or stopping threatened sexual harassment, requiring sexual harassment to cease and confirming that sexual harassment is taking place if it is continuing to have a disruptive effect. On top of that, they may apply for compensation if the employer did not take sufficient measures to prevent sexual harassment. Such compensation may amount to up to six times the average Swiss monthly salary. In addition, victims may claim damages and satisfaction.
Employees may challenge a dismissal as a result of making a complaint of sexual harassment to their manager, or because of their initiation of legal proceedings. Remedies includes interim relief or compensation of up to six months’ salary within 180 days after termination of employment. Civil claims can also be brought against the harasser, and they may ask the court for injunctive relief as well as claim damages and satisfaction. The employee may also bring a criminal charge against the harasser.
Employers are legally obliged to inform the Ministry of Labour about cases of sexual harassment that occur at the workplace and the result of their investigations.
Besides employers’ legal obligation to inform the Ministry of Labour about cases of sexual harassment and the result of their investigations, the main remedy provided by the law to the victim is to file a complaint with his/her employer so that he may initiate an investigation and punish the aggressor, taking also certain measures to protect the victim.
In addition to this complaint, the law recognizes the following rights of the person who considers herself/himself the object of acts of sexual harassment:
1. She/he is entitled to initiate the following actions against her/his employer:
- If the harasser is the employer, the victim may sue her/his employer before the courts in order to cease the hostile behaviour, or consider herself/himself dismissed from their employment and sue the employer for compensation for unfair dismissal.
- The victim may also sue the employer in court by demanding compensation for the damages caused by the act of sexual harassment.
- The victim may also ask the Labor Inspection Authority to verify the facts, fine the employer and order them to take measures to protect the victim, prevent new similar cases and apply the corresponding sanctions.
- In cases of complaints filed with the employer for sexual harassment, if the employer or the competent official fails to initiate the investigation or does not adopt the corresponding protection, prevention and sanction measures, the victim may also sue the employer to stop the hostile behaviour or consider himself/herself dismissed from employment and demand the payment of severance pay.
2. It is also possible that the victim criminally denounces the stalker before the Police Authority or the Prosecutor's Office. For this purpose, it should be noted that the law defines as a crime the act of monitoring, persecuting, harassing, besieging or seeking contact or closeness with a person, without her/his consent in order to carry out acts of a sexual nature. The harasser can be punished with a sentence of up to eight years in jail.