Behaviour that violates another person's dignity and integrity often entails discrimination of that person at their place of work or study. As stated in the Guideline on Fair Conduct, Heidelberg University does not tolerate such behaviour. Instead, it emphasizes the importance of treating each other with respect and appreciation. All members of the University, especially those in leadership, managerial or teaching positions, see it as their responsibility not to tolerate or ignore discrimination and harassment.
A person is being sexually harassed if he or she is the object of sexually motivated, unwanted actions that humiliate him or her and violate his or her dignity.
The following acts are cited as examples of sexual harassment in the General Equal Treatment Act (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz, AGG § 3, Abs. 4):
- unwelcome sexual actions and requests for such actions
- unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature
- comments of a sexual nature
- unwanted exposure to pornographic materials.
Bullying has been defined by the German Federal Labour Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht, BAG decision from 15 January 1997) as systematic hostility, harassment or discrimination either among employees or by superiors. It is aided and abetted by stressful situations at work, which may be the result of excessive or too low demands being made on a particular employee or group of employees, of work organization processes or the behaviour of superiors.
In the German Criminal Code (StGB § 185, § 238) stalking is described as a crime punishable with up to three years of imprisonment or a monetary penalty. The following actions are considered to be stalking:
- repeated watching, following or lying in wait for a person
- unwanted communication by phone, email, mail, or notes
- harassing or threatening a person or persons close to him/her
- unwelcome gifts or ordering of goods.
Potential Effects of Harassment, Bullying and Stalking
- diminished self-confidence, motivation and learning/work power
- mental and psychosomatic problems
Take action against sexual harassment
In cases of sexual harassment, it is important not to ignore this behaviour but to act:
Defend yourself immediately
- Make it clear that this behaviour is unwanted and ask the offender to refrain from such actions!
- Look for witnesses!
- Keep record of the harassment (location, date, time, quotes, e-mails, etc.)!
- Alert passers-by or security service nearby
- let someone you trust know about the situation in order to deal with it better
- seek the advice of public authorities
- The equal opportunities commissioners of the faculties are bound to professional discretion and can thus offer advice as a neutral party. If the persons concerned wish to remain anonymous, these contact persons can also act as a proxy.
- That way, an official complaint can also be set in motion, which may result in legal consequences for the offender, the nature of which depends on his or her respective status. These include employment law sanctions against the harasser (written warning, transfer, dismissal/suspension, house ban, deregistration).
- It is a legal regulation that in the case of sexual harassment, university members and students will be allocated both a female and a male contact person for support. At Heidelberg University, you can turn to the following contacts.
For a confidential conversation, for advice on how to resolve a burdensome situation or for information on legal aspects or university-internal procedures, you can contact:
Dr. Agnes Speck
Equal Opportunities Office
Phone: 06221 54-7697
Tobias Just, M.A.
Phone: 06221 54-3981
Laws and Provisions
- Senate Guidelines on Cooperative Relations
- University Law of the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg (LHG) § 4 (4), § 62 (3)
- General Equal Treatment Act (AGG), § 1, § 3, § 12, § 13, § 14, § 22
- Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, Sections 1 and 2
- German Criminal Code, § 185, § 238
- Protection against Violence Act, § 1
- "Sexuelle Belästigung ist Arbeitsalltag", by Anne Haeming, Spiegel Online, 3.3.2015
- "Sexismus an der Hochschule. Unangenehm berührt", by Heide Oestreich, DUZ Magazin, 07/2013
- "Gender-based Violence, Stalking and Fear of Crime. Länderbericht Deutschland." EU-Project 2009-2011. Presented by Ruhr-Universität Bochum
- "Lebenssituation, Sicherheit und Gesundheit von Frauen in Deutschland." Report commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMSFSJ)