Other areas of society

You are protected against discrimination in many different areas of society. This is subject to regulation by the Discrimination Act. You are protected for instance when shopping, when renting a home, when visiting hospital or the social insurance office and when doing your military service.

The Equality Ombudsman (DO) ensures compliance with the Discrimination Act. If you have been discriminated against and this is related to your sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability or sexual orientation, you can report this to the Equality Ombudsman.

Who may file a complaint?

You can report discrimination if you are a client, a customer, a patient or similar at a company or a government agency, and the staff there treat you less favourably than others because, for instance, you are bisexual or were born in a country other than Sweden. You can also file a complaint if you have been subjected to harassment.

Discrimination is prohibited if it is related to your:

  • sex
  • transgender identity or expression
  • ethnicity
  • religion or other belief
  • disability, or
  • sexual orientation

What areas are covered?

Prohibition of discrimination applies in connection with the following:

  • Trading in goods, services and housing (outside private and family life)
  • The organisation of public meetings, events and entertainment  (e.g. trade fairs, markets or concerts)
  • Healthcare
  • Social services, special transport services and housing adaptation allowances
  • Social insurance system (services provided by the Social Insurance Agency)
  • State study support
  • Military service and civilian service
  • Public employment (which means that central government, municipal and county council employees must not treat anyone in a discriminatory manner)

Remember, private individuals cannot be reported for discrimination except in very exceptional cases. Those who may be reported include municipalities, government agencies and companies providing goods and services, since they are responsible for their employees. Other examples are hospitals, the National Board of Student Aid (CSN) and the Social Insurance Agency.

What can I report?

Discrimination is present when for instance an agency or company treats you less favourably than others because you are bisexual, perhaps, or were born in a country other than Sweden. You can also file a complaint if you feel that you have been harassed.

Discrimination may also be indirect. One example is when seemingly neutral rules in fact put people from a certain group, e.g. women, at a disadvantage. Nor may a person at an agency or company order someone else to harass you.

Examples of discrimination

Here are some examples of what may constitute discrimination and which you can report to the Equality Ombudsman:

  • If you are not allowed to rent a flat and this is related to your ethnic origin.
  • If you are unable to work because you suffer pains as a result of your pregnancy and the social insurance office refuses to grant you sickness benefit.
  • If a club refuses you admittance because you are a transvestite.
  • If in connection with an accident a hospital refuses to let you visit your injured same-sex partners on the grounds that you are not family.
  • If you are barred from entering a restaurant because you have a disability, such as cerebral palsy.
  • If you are sexually harassed when doing your military service.
  • If you are treated unpleasantly and harassed when in contact  with a government agency because you are bisexual.
  • If you are refused a training card at a gym on the grounds that you have a disability and use a wheelchair, for instance.

Punishment is forbidden

If you have reported a government agency, a company or similar for discrimination, you must not be subjected to punishment in the form of reprisals. Examples include being barred from the shop or restaurant that you have reported, being harassed by your landlord or being refused help by a medical centre for your action.

What is harassment?

You have a right not to be harassed when for instance shopping, visiting a medical centre, doing your military service, seeking a place to live or visiting the social insurance office.

Harassment is behaviour that violates a person’s integrity or dignity, and is prohibited if it is related to:

  • sex
  • transgender identity or expression
  • ethnicity
  • religion or other belief
  • disability, or
  • sexual orientation

Harassment may for instance involve using contemptuous or degrading generalisations about “female”, “homosexual” or “Bosnian” behaviour or characteristics. Or it could involve someone being called a “wog”, “spazz”, “poof”, “whore” or similar. Alternatively, it might involve ignoring someone, or withholding information relating to one or other of the grounds for discrimination.

What the various forms of harassment have in common is that they make the person concerned feel insulted, threatened, abused or unfairly treated.

Harassment is behaviour that is unwelcome. It is you as the victim who decides what is insulting or abusive. The same type of behaviour may be considered harassment by one person while another may not find it disturbing at all.

What is sexual harassment?

Harassment may also be of a sexual nature, in which case it is called sexual harassment. This covers things like touching, pawing, jokes, suggestions, looks or images that are sexually allusive.

Sexual harassment differs from ordinary flirting in that it is unwelcome. It is you as the victim who decides what you consider abusive or insulting.

Speak out!

It is the person subjected to harassment who decides what she or he considers a violation. It is important that you as the victim make clear to the person concerned that their behaviour is unpleasant, unwelcome and must end. In certain serious or clear-cut cases, you do not need to protest for the person’s behaviour to be deemed harassment under the law.

Reporting

If you have been harassed when visiting a shop or store, dealing with a government agency or attending a public event or similar, you can report this to the Equality Ombudsman. The company or organisation you have been in contact with may then be liable to pay compensation.

You have the right not to be punished for filing a complaint!

If you have reported, say, a company or organisation for harassment, you have the right not to be subjected to reprisals, i.e. be punished for doing so. Examples include being barred from the shop or restaurant that you have reported, being harassed by your landlord or being refused help by a medical centre for your action.

If you are subjected to reprisals, you can report this to the Equality Ombudsman.

How do I file a complaint?

If you feel that you have been discriminated against and this is related to your sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation or age, you can report the matter to the Equality Ombudsman.

It is always the agency, company or organisation that is responsible for ensuring that discrimination does not occur and that is liable to be reported. This means you cannot report a private individual.

How to proceed

You can only file a complaint if it is you personally who feels discriminated against. Complaints must be in writing and include your name, address, telephone number, and preferably your email address, plus the name of the company, organisation or agency concerned. Also, describe why you think you have been discriminated against and how this relates to your disability, for instance, or your ethnic origin.

Report the matter promptly. You must not allow too much time to elapse between the discrimination and the complaint, since the right to legal action may then expire and it will be too late for the Equality Ombudsman to investigate the case. Events that occurred more than two years earlier are not usually investigated.

Complaints about discrimination and harassment are investigated by the Ombudsman’s case officers. The Ombudsman adopts a neutral stance, which means it draws on information both from the person who reported the matter and from whoever was the subject of the complaint. If an investigation shows that discrimination can be assumed to have occurred, the Ombudsman first seeks to negotiate a voluntary agreement – a settlement – between you and the person or body responsible for the discrimination. This may result in financial compensation for you, an apology or some other form of recompense or action. If a settlement cannot be reached, the Equality Ombudsman can take the case to court.

Punishment is forbidden

The company, organisation or agency that is the subject of the complaint is not allowed to punish you for having reported it for discrimination. If you are punished - subjected to reprisals – you can report this to the Equality Ombudsman.

Public document

The Equality Ombudsman is a government agency. This means that your complaint is registered and becomes a public document that both the general public and the media have access to. In special circumstances, the Equality Ombudsman is allowed to classify data as secret, which means the document is not released.

If you have questions concerning the filing of complaints and how this is done, please feel free to contact the Equality Ombudsman and ask an investigating officer for advice.