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Equal Treatment Commission

General information

Based on the Federal Act on the Equal Treatment Commission and the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment (ETC/OOEC Act, Federal Law Gazette No. 108/1979 as amended in Federal Law Gazette I No. 107/2013), the Equal Treatment Commission, which now consists of three Senates, was set up to scrutinise matters relating to discrimination under the Equal Treatment Act. It is a special institution designed to support labour, social and civil courts.

  1. What are the tasks of the Equal Treatment Commission?
  2. What are the duties of Senate members?
  3. What is the composition of the Senates that constitute the Equal Treatment Commission?

What are the tasks of the Equal Treatment Commission?

The tasks of the Equal Treatment Commission are laid down in the ETC/OOEC Act, Federal Law Gazette No. 108/1979 as amended in Federal Law Gazette No. 107/2013. Within their area of authority, the Senates have to deal with all questions of a general or individual nature that involve discrimination within the Senate’s area of authority (§ 8 ETC/OOEC Act). Proceedings that relate to employment and occupation and come within the areas of authority of Senate I or Senate II, provide a forum for mediation between employers and employees prior to the initiation of court proceedings.

Thus, in principle, all the three Senates of the Equal Treatment Commission facilitate arrangements designed to avoid or to settle legal disputes, using their powers to issue advisory opinions or to settle disputes before or even during proceedings.

The relevant representatives of the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment attend the meetings of the Commission Senates in an advisory capacity, without the right to vote.

Senate I of the Equal Treatment Commission

Who serves on the Senate I? Senate I is composed of the Chair and six additional members seconded and/or appointed by the Federal Chamber of Labour, the Austrian Trade Union Federation, the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, the Federation of Austrian Industrialists, the Federal Chanceller and the Federal Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Remit of Senate I

The remit of Senate I covers the equal treatment of women and men in employment and occupation (Part I of the Equal Treatment Act, Federal Law Gazette I No. 66/2004 as amended in Federal Law Gazette I No. 107/2013). Especially as regards marital or family status, no one must be directly or indirectly discriminated against on grounds of gender in employment and occupation (§ 3 Equal Treatment Act). This applies in particular to

  1. the establishment of the employment contract,
  2. fixing rates of pay,
  3. granting perquisites not counting as remuneration,
  4. initial and continued vocational training and re-training,
  5. career advancement, in particular promotions,
  6. other working conditions,
  7. the termination of employment.

Under § 4 of the Equal Treatment Act no one must be directly or indirectly discriminated against on grounds of gender, especially as regards marital or family status, in other areas of employment and occupation: This applies to

  1. career guidance, vocational training, advanced professional training and re-training not covered by the employment contract,
  2. membership and active involvement in the activities of organisations representing employer or employee interests or of organisations whose members belong to a specific occupational group, including recourse to the services of such organisations, or to
  3. self-employment.

Multiple discrimination

If a case brought before the Equal Treatment Commission concerns both equal treatment of women and men in employment and occupation and equal treatment irrespective of ethnic origin, religion or belief, age or sexual orientation in employment and occupation, it falls within the remit of Senate I. In the given context, Senate I will also have to apply the rules on equal treatment irrespective of ethnic origin, religion or belief, age or sexual orientation in employment and occupation (Part II Equal Treatment Act).

Coordinating function

The Chairperson presiding over Senate I is tasked with coordinating the work of the Equal Treatment Commission.

Senate II of the Equal Treatment Commission

Who serves on the Senate II?

Senate II is composed of the Chair and six additional members, seconded and/or appointed by the Federal Chamber of Labour, the Austrian Trade Union Federation, the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, the Federation of Austrian Industrialists, the Federal Chanceller and the Federal Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Remit of Senate II

The remit of Senate II covers equal treatment in employment and occupation irrespective of ethnic origin, religion or belief, age or sexual orientation (anti-discrimination) (Part II of the Equal Treatment Act – Federal Law Gazette I No. 66/2004 as amended in Federal Law Gazette I No. 107/2013).

No one must be directly or indirectly discriminated against in employment and occupation on grounds of ethnic origin, religion or belief, age or sexual orientation (§ 17 Para. 1 Equal Treatment Act). This applies in particular to

  1. the establishment of the employment contract,
  2. fixing rates of pay,
  3. granting perquisites not counting as remuneration,
  4. initial and continued vocational training and re-training,
  5. career advancement, in particular promotions,
  6. other working conditions,
  7. the termination of employment.

Under § 17 Para. 2, § 17 Para. 1 applies neither to differing treatment on grounds of nationality nor to treatment arising from the legal status of third-country nationals or of stateless persons. Under § 18 of the Equal Treatment Act no one must be directly or indirectly discriminated against in other areas of employment and occupation for the reasons cited in § 17. This applies to

  1. career guidance, vocational training, advanced professional training and re-training not covered by the employment contract,
  2. membership and active involvement in the activities of organisations representing employer or employee interests or organisations whose members belong to a specific occupational group, including recourse to the services of such organisations, or to
  3. self-employment.

Exemption clauses

§ 20. (1) Unequal treatment due to an attribute related to one of the reasons for discrimination listed in § 17 does not constitute discrimination, if – due to the type of work or the conditions for its performance – the attribute in question is a genuine occupational requirement and if this requirement is lawful and appropriate.

(2) Where the religion or ethos of a person is an essential, lawful and justified precondition of employment in an organisation, on account of that organisation’s own ethos, such precondition shall not constitute discrimination on grounds of religion or belief in the context of employment and occupation by churches or other public or private organisations whose ethos is based on religious tenets or philosophical convictions.

(3) Where unequal treatment on grounds of age is

  1. objective and appropriate,
  2. justified by a legitimate objective, in particular by legitimate objectives in the fields of employment policy, labour market and vocational training and if
  3. the means to this end are commensurate and necessary,

it shall not be deemed to constitute discrimination.

(4) Unequal treatment under Para. 3 may in particular include

  1. stipulating specific preconditions for access to an occupation and to vocational training as well as specific employment and working conditions, including conditions of dismissal or pay, with a view to facilitating the access to the labour market of young people, older workers and persons entrusted with care, or to ensuring their protection;
  2. stipulating minimum requirements in terms of age, job experience and seniority for the access to employment or to specific job-related benefits,
  3. stipulating a maximum employment age on grounds of specific training requirements for a given job or due to a required period of employment prior to retirement.

(5) Nor is discrimination on grounds of age deemed to be constituted by age limits fixed under corporate social security systems as a precondition of membership or of payment of old-age pension or of benefits in case of invalidity including setting age limits under these schemes for individual employees or groups or categories of employees and the use of age criteria under these schemes for actuarial calculation, unless this implies discrimination on grounds of gender.

Senate III of the Equal Treatment Commission

Who serves on the Senate III?

Senate III is composed of the Chair and six additional members, seconded and/or appointed by the Federal Chamber of Labour, the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, the Federal Chanceller, the Federal Minister of Science, Research and Economy, the Federal Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection and the Federal Minister of Justice.

Remit of Senate III

The remit of Senate III covers equal treatment irrespective of ethnic origin in other areas (Part III of the Equal Treatment Act – Federal Law Gazette I No. 66/2004 as amended in Federal Law Gazette I No. 107/2013).

The provisions apply to legal relationships including their establishment and to asserting or enforcing claims to services and benefits not covered by the legal relationship, in particular to

  1. social protection including social security coverage and healthcare,
  2. social benefits,
  3. education,
  4. access to and supply of public goods and services including housing, on condition that they come within the direct legal authority of the federal state.

On 1 August 2008, the remit of Senate III was extended to include the equal treatment of women and men as regards access to and supply with goods and services (Part III a of the Equal Treatment Act – Federal Law Gazette I No. 98/2008).

The provisions laid down in this Part apply to legal relationships including their establishment and to asserting or enforcing claims to services and benefits not covered by the legal relationship in the context of access to and supply with public goods and services.

Any special provisions for insurance contracts contained in the Insurance Contracts Act 1958, Federal Law Gazette No 2/1959, and the Insurance Supervisory Act, Federal Law Gazette No. 569/1978, need to be respected.

Legal relationships or the assertion or enforcement of claims to benefits and services that

  1. come under the regulatory authority of the federal laender,
  2. fall within the scope of Part I,
  3. belong to the area of private and family life,
  4. are part of the content of media and advertising,
  5. belong to the area of public or private education

are exempt from these provisions.

Area of application

No one must be directly or indirectly discriminated against on grounds of ethnic origin. This applies to

  1. social protection including social security coverage and healthcare,
  2. social benefits,
  3. education,
  4. access to and supply with public goods and services, including housing.

This provision applies neither to differing treatment on account of nationality nor to treatment arising from the legal status of third-country nationals or of stateless persons.

No one must be discriminated on grounds of gender in their access to and supply with public goods and services.

Discrimination of women on account of pregnancy or maternity constitutes direct discrimination on grounds of gender.

What are the duties of Senate members?

Senate members work on a voluntary basis and are bound to secrecy. This implies in particular that they are pledged to uphold confidentiality on business and company secrets that come up in the course of the proceedings (§ 10 Para. 3 ETC/OOEC Act).

What is subject to scrutiny by the Senates of the Equal Treatment Commission?

Within their respective areas of authority the Senates of the Equal Treatment Commission – when requested to do so by persons entitled to bring cases before it – investigate whether the equal treatment precept has been violated. However, they may also initiate investigations on their own authority within their terms of reference.

Further information (in German)

Die Gleichbehandlungskommission