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.
In organisations, which employ 20 or more employees, an internal reporting system must be established, and a dignity officer duly appointed. Complaints can be made (and resolved) internally by the dignity officer.
If such an option is unavailable or if the issue was not satisfactorily resolved within a set timeframe, the employee can seek protection before the courts. In certain cases, the employee can stop further work with the employer, until adequate protection is granted, either by the employer or the courts.
In court proceedings, the burden of proof lies on the employer, i.e. the employer must prove that there was no conduct constituting sexual harassment against the employee.
The employee can make a request to the court: (i) to make a finding that the conduct amounted to sexual harassment ; (ii) to prohibit all activities which constitute harassment, i.e. to resolve the harassment case and its consequences; (iii) to award damages incurred by the violation of the employees’ rights in accordance with the applicable civil law; (iv) to publicise the court decision which made a finding of harassment.
The employee can also make a request for payment of all due but unpaid salary (together with statutory interest) if he/she has stopped working during the court proceedings. Additionally, if a finding of sexual harassment is made, the employer will generally be obliged to pay all court fees incurred as part of the court proceedings.