Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment, particularly in the workplace, continues to be a major issue as the results of a 2011 study published by the Austrian Institute of Family Studies with the support of the Federal Ministry of Economics, Families and Youth show.


Of the 1,292 women between the ages of 16 and 60 surveyed, three quarters – 74.2% to be precise – had experienced sexual harassment (Helpline, 2014). The affected women stated they were often uncertain as to the definition and boundaries of sexual harassment.


What is sexual harassment?

Unlike mobbing, there is no time component involved in sexual harassment; it can happen only once. It is often unclear when sexual harassment actually constitutes a criminal offence, or what rights a person, who suspects they have been sexually harassed, has. The following aims to shed some light on this topic, and to provide some starting points. Affected men and women can obtain more information from the members of the CEI.

The Federal Equal Treatment Act (B-GlBG; §8 in connection with § 19; see appendix) provides a good overview of how broad the range of sexually harassing behavior can be, and describes the various forms of sexual harassment and their consequences. According to this, sexual harassment constitutes behavior of a sexual nature that offends a person’s dignity or that is uninvited, inappropriate, demeaning, offensive or indecent.

To gain a deeper understanding of the term, it can help to define sexual harassment in the context of mobbing. In her book “Mobbing. A Practical Guideline for Companies and Organizations” (2015) Katja Merk points out that sexual harassment is usually not as repeated, focused on a particular outcome or regular as mobbing. However, mobbing as the result of a prior act of sexual harassment is definitely possible, and sexual harassment can also be a type of mobbing behavior if it takes place regularly, with a purpose, involves systematic bullying or helplessness due to existing roles (see Merk, 2015).


Where can you find support?

In addition to this brief overview of sexual harassment, further information is available on the homepage of the equal treatment attorneyship and from the Austrian Bureau for Women’s Affairs and Equality. Anonymized individual cases are analyzed at the aforementioned homepage, allowing insights into various forms of sexual harassment based on actual incidents, and possible courses of action, as well as the rights of victims of previous sexual harassment cases (Office of the Federal Chancellor, 2014). Seeking reliable assistance is essential in all cases. The members of the CEI are at your service in these matters and, if necessary, under obligation of secrecy will immediately refer you to the pertinent advisory centers.


Arbeitskreis für Gleichbehandlungsfragen (o.J.). Mobbing, sexuelle Belästigung. Unterstützung für Betroffene von Konflikten, Mobbing oder sexueller Belästigung. Online here  [02.06.2015].

Bundeskanzleramt Österreich – Frauenangelegenheiten und Gleichstellung (2014). Archiv der Gleichbehandlungskommission (GBK). Online here [13.05.2019].

Jusline (2015a). § 8 B-GIBG Sexuelle Belästigung. Online here [02.06.2015].

Jusline (2015b). § 19 B-GlBG Sexuelle Belästigung und Belästigung. Online here [02.06.2015].

Merk, Katja (2014). Mobbing. Praxisleitfaden für Betriebe und Organisationen (Reihe: Edition Rosenberger). Wiesbaden: Springer Gabler (Original erschienen 2004).

Notruf Beratung für vergewaltigte Frauen und Mädchen Wien (2014). Daten und Fakten zu sexueller Gewalt gegen Frauen. Wien: Notruf Beratung für vergewaltigte Frauen und Mädchen. Online here  [Sept. 2019].

Further Information and Links


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