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Examples for Equal Treatment irrespective of Sex or Ethnicity in other Areas

Most requests relate to discrimination on grounds of ethnicity in connection with services or renting apartments. In many cases discrimination goes hand-in-hand with verbal harassment. 

Experience gained through the advisory work of the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment shows that “visible minorities“ are exposed most frequently to risks of discrimination on grounds of ethnicity. A visible characteristic such as a name not sounding typically Austrian is often sufficient to give rise to discrimination on grounds of ethnicity. As far as equal treatment between women and men regarding goods and services is concerned, complaints mainly deal with issues such as different disco entrance fees for women and men; different insurance premiums for women and men; different fare reductions for female and male senior citizens granted by transport companies; gender-specific prices for haircutting and sexual harassment in connection with various services.

Example 1: Discrimination by a gym – membership contract refused

Two young people of African origin wanted to conclude a one-year membership contract with a gym. The receptionist of the gym informed them that there was a freeze on admissions. Some days earlier they had, however, been informed on the phone that they could join the gym anytime. Calling again, they were told that the freeze on admissions affected only men but that women could come to train anytime. When the men drew attention to the fact that they had received different information before and expressed their suspicion that skin colour could play a role, an employee of the gym explained them that there was a freeze on admissions for people with dark skin since otherwise the customers of the gym would stay away.

After free and confidential consultations, the Ombud for Equal Treatment sent a letter to the manager of the gym informing him that the gym’s refusal to admit people with dark skin violated the Equal Treatment Act. Eventually, settlement talks were held. An out-of-court settlement was achieved as the gym offered the two men one-year memberships.

Example 2: Discrimination by a disco – admission refused

Together with his girlfriend of Austrian origin, a young man of Indian origin wanted to go to a disco on a Saturday as a common friend was celebrating his birthday there. When the man of Indian origin and his girlfriend wanted to enter the disco, one of the two doormen said to the man: “You cannot enter tonight!” His girlfriend of Austrian origin was admitted to the disco.

The man of Indian origin asked the doorman if he thought that he was not yet 16 years old and therefore refused to let him in. The doorman answered, however, that age was not the problem and that he did not have to give him any explanation why he did not let him in as he was authorised to enforce the rules of the management.

The man and his girlfriend had a discussion with the doorman, trying to find out why he did not let the man enter the disco. But the doorman did not give them any answer.

The man affected contacted the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment, asking for advice and support. The Ombud for Equal Treatment drafted a letter to the manager of the disco as well as the manager of the security company, in which she described the incident, informed on the legal provisions of the Equal Treatment Act and requested them to comment on the incident. Both the security company and the manager of the disco denied in their comments that any discrimination occurred. The Ombud for Equal Treatment then submitted a request to the Equal Treatment Commission to examine whether the principle of equal treatment had been violated.

After the proceedings before the Equal Treatment Commission, in which hearings with the man affected, this girlfriend, another informant as well as the doormen and managers were held, the Equal Treatment Commission came to the conclusion that discrimination on grounds of ethnicity in access to services had occurred and that therefore the Equal Treatment Act had been violated.

Example 3: Discrimination by property management – refusal to let apartment

A woman of Austrian origin who was married to a man of African origin and who took his African name contacted the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment, seeking advice as she felt discriminated against by a property management.

The woman contacted the respective property management as she was looking for a flat for herself and her husband. The property management asked her from where she was as her name sounded “foreign”. When the woman said that her husband was of African origin and that it was an African name, the property management told her that the owner did not accept any people with dark skin in her building. Therefore the flat would not be let to the woman and her husband.

After a personal meeting with the woman, the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment informed the property management in writing of the prohibition of discrimination and requested its comments. The property management provided its comments on the incident, denying that any discrimination occurred. The persons affected appreciated the intervention by the Ombud for Equal Treatment but decided not to take any further legal steps.

Example 4: Sexual harassment by repairman

A woman called for a repairman to repair the washing machine in her flat. During the repair work, the woman was sexually harassed through physical contact by the repairman. She turned to the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment for advice. At the same time, she complained with the company employing the repairman. With the support of the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment, the case was settled out of court; the company agreed to apologise and pay compensation.