Sexual harassment laws in Italy
Country-specific employment/labour law information
Traditionally, there have been no specific statutory provisions addressing sexual harassment in Italy. However, sexual harassment used to be punished and can still be punished by resorting to a number of provisions under criminal law. In the past, sexual harassment has been criminally prosecuted based on the provisions on “harassment” in general (Article 660 of the Italian Criminal Code), or the provision that concerns “acts of violent lust” (Article 521 of the Italian Criminal Code). In 1996, this latter provision was replaced by a new criminal provision on sexual violence, which also replaced the old provisions on rape and other sexually oriented crimes. The new provision is broadly worded and makes punishable “everybody who, with violence or threat or through abuse of authority, obliges anybody to make or to undergo sexual acts.”
The wording “sexual acts” has, in turn, been broadly interpreted so as to include all actions that may affect self-determination of sexual conduct. In one precedent, the Italian Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) expressly stated that such provision can apply to employment relationships, provided that the employer abused its position.
Furthermore, according to Legislative Decree n° 198/2006 (also known as “Code of equal opportunities for men and women”), harassment is defined as “any unwanted conduct triggered by reasons of sex with the purpose or effect of violatingthe dignity of a worker and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment,” while sexual harassment in particular is defined as “any unwanted conduct, physical, verbal or not-verbal, having sexual character and the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a worker and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.” Both harassment and sexual harassment are statutorily deemed to be discriminations, as well as any unfavorable conduct of the employer that reacts against a complaint and/or petition claiming the compliance with the principle of equal treatment of men and women.
The statutory provisions on sex discrimination have also been utilized in cases where negative decisions (dismissals, transfers, etc.) had been adopted following claims of sexual harassment.
Actions, agreements and measures concerning the employment relationship with workers who have suffered harassment or sexual harassment are void and unenforceable whenever they involve the refusal or the acceptance of such harassment.