Section 7. Worker Rights
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The equality law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment on the basis of sex (including pregnancy). No labor law explicitly prohibits discrimination with respect to employment on the grounds of sex (including pregnancy), race, color, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, language, political opinion, HIV/AIDS status, age, national origin, or refugee or stateless status. In court cases on employment discrimination based on sex, the equality law prevails.
Violations of the law may result in the award of compensation to a prospective or dismissed employee equal to a maximum of three months’ salary in the public sector and six months’ salary in private industry. The government did not effectively enforce this provision. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. The ILO observed that the country lacked easily accessible mechanisms for workers to seek remedy or compensation for discrimination in employment and vocational training.
Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to national, racial, and ethnic minorities as well as based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, HIV/AIDS status, and age. For example, an employer dismissed an HIV-positive person after the employee informed his supervisor of his HIV-positive status.
Discrimination against women in the workplace is illegal, but a disproportionate share of women held jobs with lower levels of responsibility. Employers promoted women less frequently than they did men, and women were less likely to own or manage businesses. According to TravailSuisse, one of the country’s largest trade unions representing more than 150,000 workers, women were severely underrepresented in top-level management positions, particularly in private industry.
On June 19, parliament passed legislation calling for women to occupy at least 30 percent of corporate board positions and 20 percent of corporate management positions in enterprises with a minimum of 250 employees. The nonbinding policy requires businesses that fail to reach the targets to submit a written justification to the government.
The law entitles women and men to equal pay for equal work, but this was not enforced effectively according to TravailSuisse. Based on research by the Federal Statistics Office, there was an 18 percent gender wage gap across both the public and private sectors in 2016, the last year for which data was available. In 2016 the median monthly income for women in the public sector was 7,468 Swiss francs/U.S. dollars, while men earned 8,966 Swiss francs/U.S. dollars. The median monthly income for women in the private sector was 6,266 Swiss francs/U.S. dollars while men earned 7,793 Swiss francs/U.S. dollars. On June 14, several hundred thousand people protested against gender inequality and the gender pay gap in one of the country’s largest-ever demonstrations.
In December 2018 parliament passed a law giving companies with more than 100 employees until 2021 to submit an independent report examining potential wage gaps between men and women. The law requires companies to repeat the assessment every four years until no evidence of an unjustified wage difference is found.
The Federal Office for Gender Equality’s annual budget of approximately four million Swiss francs/U.S. dollars financed projects that promoted equal pay and equal career opportunities. As of July the office had approved 14 projects totaling 1.4 million Swiss francs/U.S. dollars. In 2018 the office financed projects worth approximately 4.4 million Swiss francs/U.S. dollars. The projects were primarily geared towards assisting businesses and counseling offices in eliminating sex-based discrimination.
According to Inclusion Handicap, problems remained in integrating individuals with disabilities, especially those with mental and cognitive handicaps, into the labor market. The NGO noted discrimination against disabled persons was particularly problematic in the private sector. Procap, one of the country’s largest organizations for persons with disabilities, stated that many persons with disabilities lacked adequate support from social insurance after taking a job, making sustained employment difficult (also see section 6, Persons with Disabilities).
The NGOs Pink Cross and Transgender Network noted LGBTI persons experienced workplace discrimination but did not provide specific examples.
According to a July 2018 study by the Bern University of Applied Sciences, only 14 percent of unemployed persons older than age 50 found a stable job after losing their previous employment, with many requiring social assistance after their unemployment benefits expired. The Romani association Romano Dialogue reported Roma were subjected to discrimination in the labor market and that many Roma concealed their identity to prevent professional backlash.
There were reports of labor discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. In 2018 the Swiss AIDS Federation registered 122 cases of discrimination against individuals with HIV, the highest number of discrimination cases ever recorded. Approximately 15 of the complaints concerned employment discrimination or other discrimination in the workplace. Examples of workplace discrimination included refusals to renew job contracts and dismissals because of a person’s HIV-positive status.
According to several organizations, including the International Organization for Migration and the Advocacy and Support Organization for Migrant Women and Victims of Trafficking, migrant workers in low-wage jobs were more likely than other workers to face exploitative labor practices and poor working conditions. This was especially true in the construction, hospitality, tourism, domestic-work, health-care, and agricultural sectors.