Legislation

The Gender Equality Act, the Anti-Discrimination Act and the Working Environment Act all prohibit harassment.

Note that a new Equality and Anti-discrimination Act takes effect on 1 January 2018. We will update this site in accordance with the new act.

The overview on this page gives examples of legislation that addresses the working environment, bullying and various types of harassment, with a special focus on sexual harassment.

The courts enforce sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is a difficult concept with regard to the law, ethics and as a research topic. In addition, there is good reason to assume that case law does not reflect the extent of the harassment that occurs.

The Gender Equality Acts clearly states that the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombudsman and its tribunal may not enforce the rules relating to sexual harassment. The Ombudsman may only investigate whether the employer has carried out its duty to preclude and seek to prevent sexual harassment, as well as give advice and recommend measures.

This means that persons subjected to sexual harassment do not have access to this same low-threshold service that otherwise applies to discrimination cases, but must instead seek redress through the court system.

In Official Norwegian Report 18: 2012 on the structure for equality, the government-appointed Equality Committee pointed out that sexual harassment is widespread throughout Norwegian society and that there is a need for a low-threshold service to handle complaints about sexual harassment. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has also recommended that Norway consider introducing this as part of its enforcement of sexual harassment.

The Ombudsman supports the recommendation for a low-threshold service, but this proposal has been rejected.

The Gender Equality Act

Act relating to gender equality (Gender Equality Act)

The Gender Equality Act was amended to include a prohibition against sexual harassment in 2002.
Section 8. Prohibition against harassment
Harassment on the basis of gender and sexual harassment is prohibited.
“Harassment on the basis of gender” shall mean acts, omissions or statements that have the effect or purpose of being offensive, frightening, hostile, degrading or humiliating. “Sexual harassment” shall mean unwanted sexual attention that is troublesome to the person receiving the attention.

Section 15. Duty of organizations and educational institutions to preclude and prevent harassment
The managements of organizations and educational institutions shall, within their areas of responsibility, preclude and seek to prevent the occurrence of harassment contrary to section 8.

Section 25. Employer’s duty to preclude and prevent harassment
Employers shall preclude and seek to prevent the occurrence of harassment contrary to section 8.

Section 26. Enforcement of this Act
The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombudsman and the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Tribunal shall enforce and contribute to the implementation of this Act; see the Anti-discrimination Ombudsman Act. However, the Ombudsman and the Tribunal shall not enforce the rules relating to:
a) sexual harassment in section 8.

However, it is important to note that the Ombudsman has a duty to give advice to persons who contact them regarding sexual harassment, even though they do not enforce this prohibition.

The Working Environment Act

Act relating to working environment, working hours and employment protection, etc. (Working Environment Act)
Section 4-3. Requirements regarding the psychosocial working environment
(3) Employees shall not be subjected to harassment or other improper conduct.

Section 2-3. Employees’ duty to cooperate

(2) Employees shall:
d) ensure that the employer or the safety representative is notified as soon as employees become aware of harassment or discrimination at the workplace.

Section 13-1. Prohibition against discrimination
(1) Direct and indirect discrimination on the basis of political views, membership of a trade union, sexual orientation, disability or age is prohibited.
(2) Harassment and instruction to discriminate persons for reasons referred to in the first paragraph are regarded as discrimination.

Act relating to a prohibition against discrimination

Act relating to a prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (Sexual Orientation Anti-Discrimination Act)
Section 8. Prohibition against harassment
Harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression shall be prohibited. “Harassment” shall mean acts, omissions or statements that have the effect or purpose of being offensive, frightening, hostile, degrading or humiliating.

Act relating to a prohibition against discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion and belief (Ethnicity Anti-Discrimination Act)
Section 9. Prohibition against harassment.
Harassment on the basis of ethnicity, religion or belief shall be prohibited. “Harassment” shall mean acts, omissions or statements that have the effect or purpose of being offensive, frightening, hostile, degrading or humiliating.

Act relating to a prohibition against discrimination on the basis of disability (Anti-Discrimination and Accessibility Act)
Harassment on the basis of disability shall be prohibited. “Harassment” shall mean acts, omissions or statements that have the effect or purpose of being offensive, frightening, hostile, degrading or humiliating.

The University and University Colleges Act

Act relating to universities and university colleges (University and University Colleges Act)
Section 4-3. Learning environment
(1) The board has overall responsibility for the students’ learning environment. In cooperation with student welfare organizations, the board shall seek to provide suitable conditions for a good studying environment and to enhance student welfare at the educational institution.

The Labour Inspection Authority

The Labour Inspection Authority oversees the Working Environment Act and appurtenant regulations, and provides advice on the requirements set out in the regulatory framework. The organization’s website states the following about bullying and harassment in the workplace:

If the employer does not follow the organization’s procedures or fails to take the case seriously, the aggrieved party may report this to the Labour Inspection Authority. The Labour Inspection Authority will assess the case on an autonomous basis and may give instructions regarding the steps to be taken. This applies both in relation to the individual case and to any underlying causes. The employer must strive to ensure that a comparable situation does not arise again.

More about harassment

Read more about what employers can do to preclude and prevent harassment.
See the link to the various laws and relevant actors.

Web resources