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.
Unless the responsible person in the legal entity, (i.e. the employer with the status of a natural person, such as an entrepreneur) is the one being charged with harassment, the employee who considers that they have been exposed to harassment submits a detailed request for initiating proceedings for protection against harassment directly to that person. The employer is obliged, upon receipt of this request, to propose mediation to the parties involved as a way of resolving the disputed relationship within three days from receipt. If the employee is not satisfied with the outcome of these proceedings, within 15 days of receipt of the decision of the employer, the employee may file legal proceedings with the competent court.
If the responsible person in the legal entity, is the one charged with harassment, the employee who considers that he/she has been exposed to harassment may submit a request for initiating the mediation procedure directly to that person.
In this case, the employee who considers that he/she is exposed to harassment may, until the expiration of the period of prescription for initiating proceedings for protection against harassment with the employer, initiate proceedings before the competent court directly.