Information and legal Advice

  1. Who may contact the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment?
  2. Advisory process
  3. What can you do if you are discriminated against?
  4. Legal basis
  5. Publications

Who may contact the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment?

Do you feel disadvantaged/discriminated against in employment and occupation on grounds of ...

  • your sex,
  • your ethnicity,
  • your religion or belief,
  • your age or
  • your sexual orientation?

Do you feel disadvantaged/discriminated against in other areas on grounds of ...

  • your ethnicity or
  • your sex?

Do you feel harassed or sexually harassed?

Consult us. We will be pleased to inform, advise and support you. Our advisory services are free of charge and confidential. Please arrange for an appointment if you wish personal consultation. Together we will decide on further steps to be taken. What can we do for you?

  • We offer information, advice and support.
  • We represent you and provide ongoing support in negotiations in the preliminaries of court proceedings or proceedings before the Equal Treatment Commission.
  • If allegations of discrimination are substantiated, we may initiate the proceedings before the Equal Treatment Commission and provide support to you.
  • We may file charges against discriminatory job advertisements.

Advisory process

  1. Contacting by telephone/in writing/personally, by persons feeling discriminated against, within the meaning of the Equal Treatment Act

  2. First consultation (persönlich): Gathering facts, Legal information

  3. Preparing an individual analysis of needs and objectives

  4. Decisions on further steps to be taken are made based on the needs of the person and the evaluation of the legal situation by the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment:

    • if Intervention is wanted

      1. Intervention in the company/ with the discriminating entity/person

        or

        Supporting the person’s own initiatives/steps to find a solution

        or

        Referral of the case to the Equal Treatment Commission

        Negotiations Mediation and settlement talks

      2. Documentation and ConclusionDocumentation of discrimination, Conclusion of advisory process

    • else if Intervention is not wanted

      1. Documentation and ConclusionDocumentation of discrimination, Conclusion of advisory process

This picture shows the Advisory process scheme of the Ombud for Equal Opportunity

What can you do if you are discriminated against?

Seeking advice and support

The Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment offers free and confidential legal advice and support. If the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment is not competent for the respective matter, we will support you in identifying the right point of contact. You may contact us by telephone or in writing. Please arrange for an appointment if you wish personal consultation. Together we will decide on further steps to be taken.

Collecting evidence and documents

When discrimination occurs, in many cases not only the persons involved in discrimination are present but other people also might have seen or heard something. Approach these persons. If you do not know them, ask them for their name, address and telephone number. They could be important witnesses at a later stage.

Make notes and write down where and when (date, time) discrimination occurred while the incident is still fresh in your memory.
When discrimination extends over a longer period of time, e.g. continued harassment at work, it might be useful to keep a special diary.

Reporting discrimination

Even if you do not wish to take further steps, you can simply report discrimination to the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment. We document all cases of discrimination notified to us. This is a very useful tool to show in which spheres of life unequal treatment occurs, record the frequency of these incidents but also to identify areas where protection against discrimination still needs to be improved.

Submitting a request to the Equal Treatment Commission

The Equal Treatment Commission consists of three senates. Each senate has 10 to 12 members and a chairperson. They are representatives of ministries and interest organisations of employees and employers. The Equal Treatment Commission examines in proceedings, which are free of charge and not open to the public, whether discrimination occurred in a specific case or not.
You may initiate proceedings before the Equal Treatment Commission on your own or with the support of the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment or another institution. The Equal Treatment Commission issues a written decision on the results of the examination, which is not legally binding. The Equal Treatment Commission is not authorised to award damages.

Suing for damages

If a discrimination within the meaning of the Equal Treatment Act occurred, you are in general entitled to damages and/or the establishment of a non-discriminatory environment. Damages cover a compensation for the pecuniary loss incurred as well as compensation for the personal injury suffered ("non-material damage"). In the event of harassment or sexual harassment compensation amounting to a minimum of 1000 euros has to be paid. Claims for damages under the Equal Treatment Act have to be lodged with the competent Labour and Social Court or competent district court; the risk of litigation costs has to be taken into consideration.

Administrative penal procedures

In the event of vacancy advertisements that are discriminatory or fail to use a gender-neutral language, each applicant as well as the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment may initiate administrative penal procedures. The Ombud for Equal Treatment enjoys the status of a party to this procedure. The administrative fine for vacancy announcements not using a gender-neutral language amounts up to 360 euros.

Furthermore, vacancy announcements have to state the minimum pay for the job that is applicable under the collective agreement or under the law as well as the employer’s willingness to pay an amount exceeding this minimum level. The penal provision stipulating that vacancy announcements not meeting this requirement may entail administrative fines amounting up to 360 euros entered into force on 1 January 2012.

Besides vacancy announcements, also housing ads have to comply with equal treatment requirements. Discriminatory ads containing phrases such as "only nationals", "only Austrians" or "no foreigners" are therefore forbidden. If the requirement of non-discriminatory housing advertisements is violated, administrative fines of up to 360 euros may by imposed.

What can I do as an observer?

Look, don’t look away. Offer the person affected your support as a witness. Take notes (place, date, time) to record the incidents. Inform the person affected about the possibility of turning for advice to the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment. The Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment provides advisory services also to witnesses of discrimination.

What can I do as an employer and supervisor?

Employers have a special responsibility vis-à-vis the employees of their company. Besides their general duty of care to their employees, employers have to take appropriate steps to remedy harassment or sexual harassment. If the employer culpably fails to provide remedy, the person discriminated against is entitled to compensation.
Take persons seriously who come to inform you of discrimination. Look into the matter and talk to witnesses. Talk to the suspected perpetrators. Make it clear to them that discrimination is unlawful and not tolerated in the enterprise.

In cases of discrimination in enterprises employers are often requested to provide comments or to testify as a witness. This is one of the most important reasons why you should take notes about incidents reported to you or observed by you as well as the steps taken by you.

The Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment provides advisory services also to employers and supervisors.

Legal basis

The Ombud for Equal Treatment is a governmental institution which is competent for enforcing the right to equal treatment and equality and for protection against discrimination.

In this chapter you find the applicable legislation of Austria and the European Union (EU) as well as the applicable framework of international law:

The Equal Treatment Act for the private sector

In Austria the Equal Treatment Act for the private sector entered into force in 1979. At that time, the "Act on the Equal Treatment of Women and Men with regard to Remuneration" (Federal Law Gazette No. 108/1979) explicitly addressed pay inequality between women and men.

Since 2004 the title of the law is Federal Equal Treatment Act (PDF 283 kB)

A separate law – the Federal Act on the Equal Treatment Commission and the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment (PDF 200 kB) – governs the tasks and powers of the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment and defines the basic principles of the proceedings before the Equal Treatment Commission.

Publications