Sexual Harassment

What should those affected and people close to them do?

Superiors are obliged to protect employees from harassment and take measures against harassment, when it is too late for preventative measures.

Those affected should try to protect themselves, document all offensive acts, and seek out the appropriate kind of support.

Persons close to those affected, such as colleagues or persons of trust outside their immediate vicinity, can help by talking and listening in an atmosphere of trust and support, possibly coupled with their willingness and ability to act as witnesses.

Those affected AND witnesses, informants as well as persons of trust involved in procedures dealing with sexual harassment / violence are under special protection according to the Equal Treatment Act, and must therefore not be discriminated against on grounds of their involvement or solidarity: prohibition of discrimination pursuant to §20b Federal Equal Treatment Act (§20b B-GlBG).

 

Often, a key question is: How can I address sexual harassment (in an appropriate manner)?

Sexual harassment at universities does not differ from sexual harassment in public, in private, or in other professional settings.

Since in education and research the prevailing behavioral patterns are different from other professions or leisure settings, these situations seem to be different at first sight, but can also be characterized by the typical displays of dominant behavior when looked upon more closely. At universities – just like anywhere else – verbal and/or physical and/or visual and/or virtual boundaries in a sexual or gender-related nature are violated. These violations can lead to instances of discrimination that can traumatize those affected, and each person affected experience it differently. Common to all forms of sexually motivated (or sexist) harassment is that boundaries are crossed at a level that goes beyond the day-to-day communication in administration/research/teaching/learning/development/ management/etc.

Thus, we need different words than those we use in communication about (technical) knowledge.  In particular, it is often unclear, whether a particular misdemeanor (neglect of duty) falls under criminal law or whether help should be sought at TU Wien.

Please refer to the GLOSSAR for the key terms in the field (to be extended).

Example of a possible Structural Typology:

In which forms can sexual harassment occur?

  • Verbal harassment: harm inflicted by language:
    Comments, sounds (whistling), jokes, unsolicited judgments about physical appearance/fitness/health etc., belittling, and ridiculing in writing or directly audible.
  • Physical and non-verbal harassment: harm inflicted physically:
    Gestures, facial expressions, physical contact or almost-contact, cornering, suggestive gestures, unwanted (sexual) contact or forced contact; 
  • Visual harassment: harm inflicted by the visual:
    Posters, images, movies, videos, screensavers, nudity, spying and tools for spying;
  • Acoustic harassment: harm inflicted by sounds:
    non-verbal (but socially unmistakably defined) sounds and acoustic elements that are produced or reproduced by means of technology: Whistling, tongue-clicking, producing emotionally loaded, inappropriate sounds, playing offensive music/songs, sexually suggestive sounds, bodily sounds, martial sounds or sounds representative of violence, permanent (low-level) noise;
  • Online harassment: electronically mediated harm:
    inappropriate communication via phone, e-mail, text, voice-over-Internet, online forums, social media, or Web as verbal, acoustic, or verbal-visual/acoustic harassment by producing sounds/images/words or by playing inappropriate files

 

I.1. Federal Equal Treatment Act (B-GlBG):

Fundamental definition in § 8 (1) B-GlBG:

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination on the ground of gender, if

  1. an employee is sexually harassed,
  2. an employee is discriminated against by a representative [..]who in case of sexual harassment by third parties culpably fails to take appropriate remedial action
  3. an employee is sexually harassed by a third party.

§ 8 (2) B-GlBG stipulates: Sexual harassment shall be taken to have occurred, if

a person is exposed to conduct related to the sexual sphere that violates the dignity of such person or is intended to do so, is undesirable, inappropriate, degrading or offensive for the person affected, and

  1. creates an intimidating, hostile or humiliating work environment for the person affected or is intended to do so, or
  2. a person’s rejection of, or submission to, conduct related to the sexual sphere is expressly or tacitly used as a basis for a decision affecting this person’s access to further education, employment, continuation of employment, promotion or remuneration, or training.

AND § 8 (3) B-GlBG makes it clear that:
An instruction to engage in sexual harassment shall also betaken to be discrimination

Furthermore, § 8a B-GlBG defines gender-related harassment (see above) as discrimination analogously to sexual harassment.

§ 19 B-GlBG stipulates the legal consequences of harassment under § 8 and § 8a regarding claims for damages.

The burden of proof is, pursuant to § 20a B-GlBG, carried by the inculpated person, not by the person affected.

§ 20b B-GlBG regulates the prohibition of any disadvantages accruing to those affected as well as to witnesses, and people offering information and support to those affected in connection with complaints of sexual harassment.

 

IMPORTANT:

Since § 41 B-GlBG regulates the application of the B-GlBG for universities, the above paragraphs apply analogously to students, which is explicitly regulated by § 42 B-GlBG, in particular para. 2.

 

I.2. Universities Act (UG):

According to the Universities Act, the application of the regulations under the B-GlBG at universities is regulated under § 44 UG

this is specified in detail under § 20b UG regarding the Career Advancement plan for Women to be approved and the Equal Opportunities Plan to be approved at the university, and is also specified for the orientation phase for students under § 66 (3) UG.

 

II - Regulations at/of TU Wien:

The Career Advancement Plan for Women at TU Wien (part of the statute) defines in Part G under § 48 measures against sexual harassment, harassment and bullying for the protection of dignity in the workplace.

Equal Opportunities Plan: §11

The Works Council Agreement on Cooperative Behavior and Anti-Discrimination the Workplace defines in particular the term 'sexual harassment' under item 4 (4) and the right of appeal under item 5 (1) and lists the contact points for those affected as well as witnesses.