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Victimisation and harassment

Lund University does not accept victimisation or harassment. As an employee, if you feel that you have been the victim of abuse or harassment in the workplace, or if you witness what you perceive to be abusive behaviour in the workplace, you may find information here that will help you.

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What are victimisation and harassment?


Victimisation is a collective term for several types behaviour that are unacceptable in the workplace.

Victimisation (kränkande särbehandling) is defined as “Actions directed against one or more employees in an abusive manner, which could lead to ill health or their being placed outside the community of the workplace”. The Organisational and Social Work Environment (AFS 2015:4) provisions, by the Swedish Work Environment Authority, defines victimisation, and describes the employer’s responsibility for handling victimisation as well as work preventively against victimisation.

Lund University also clarifies, in the Work Environment Policy, that victimisation, harassment or sexual harassment is not accepted within the organisation.

The Swedish Work Environment Authority gives some examples of what victimisation could be:

  • denying someone a greeting
  • calling someone by a nickname
  • excluding someone from the social group
  • excluding someone from meetings
  • unjustly accusing someone
  • personally shaming someone
  • calling someone offensive names in front of others

Other actions and events could also be a form of victimisation. It all depends on the circumstances. What is ok with one person might be offensive to another.

Harassment and sexual harassment

Harassment and sexual harassment are two forms of discrimination, according to the Swedish Discrimination Act (2008:567).

Harassment is a conduct that violates a person’s dignity. To fall within the scope of the Discrimination Act, the offensive behaviour must be related to one or more of the grounds of discrimination: gender, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation and age. Harassment can for example be the expression of ridicule or degrading generalisations that have a connection to the grounds of discrimination.

Sexual harassment is conduct of a sexual nature that offends someone’s dignity. Sexual harassment can for example take the form of comments and words, groping or indiscreet stares. Unwelcome compliments, invitations and innuendos can also constitute sexual harassment.

Clarify that something is unwelcome

According to the law, the one who subjects someone else to something that is unwelcome must understand that it I unwelcome or abusive to the other person, for it to be classified as harassment or sexual harassment. That is why it is important that the person who feels harassed makes it clear to the perpetrator that the behaviour is unpleasant and/or unwelcome. You may not be able to or feel comfortable to do this yourself, then you should get help from your manager or someone else at the workplace to do this.

In certain circumstances, the offensive nature of the behaviour may be so obvious that it is fair to assume that the person should understand that what they did or said is offensive/unwelcome. This could be obvious derogative comments, physical violence or similar. 

Who decides if something is abusive or violates someone’s dignity?

Harassment and sexual harassment are behaviours that are unwelcome. The one who is subjected to harassment is the one who decides what is unwelcome or offensive. However, that does not automatically translate to the legal definition as being victimisation, harassment or sexual harassment. 

Sometimes events do not fit the definitions, which is one of the reasons for making an investigation. Another reason for investigating is to find out what happened so the manager gets a clearer picture of what measures to put in, so that you and your co-workers can go back to a good work environment. Both you and your co-workers are obligated to contribute to a good work environment.

How to report victimisation or harassment

As an employee, if you feel you have been, or have witnessed someone else being, the subject of victimisation or harassment, you can report the incident to your manager. If this is not possible, you can contact the next level of management, such as the dean or equivalent, or talk to the local health and safety representative.

Your manager (or your manager’s manager according to the delegation rules) is obliged to start an investigation into the incident.

You can also report victimisation through Lund University’s incident report procedure.

Read more about reporting occupational injuries and incidents

Filing an anonymous report

Reporting events anonymously may feel safe, but it may not lead to the help you need. A prerequisite for being able to tackle a problem is that the manager can find out as much as possible about what has happened.

To do that, the manager has to talk to both the one who feels exposed and the one who is pointed out. Sometimes you also have to talk to others who may have seen or heard what has happened. If the manager cannot do that, they do not have enough information to remedy the problem and can only work in a general and preventive manner.

If you feel unsafe telling your manager about something that happened, think about what would make you more confident in the situation. Can you talk to someone else who can support you in the conversation with the manager? Can you talk to your manager about your concerns? Can you and your manager together, find a way forward that leads to a better working environment for everyone?

What happens when you report

Your manager will start an investigation in which you will get the opportunity to recount what happened and your experience of what happened. The investigator, who may be your manager or a person, appointed by them, will also speak with the person who you perceive is harassing you, as well as with any other people who have something important to contribute to the investigation.

The investigations can vary in size and complexity, depending on what has happened. Sometimes it is enough to talk to the two parties, but sometimes the investigation will take a lot more time and effort. It all depends on what has happened and how complex the situation is. An investigation can take a few weeks or months to conclude. 

The aim of the investigation is to clarify the course of events, but also, if possible, to determine whether the incident falls within the framework of the legislative definitions of harassment, sexual harassment and victimisation. The investigation should give the manager enough information to put measures in place to put a stop the victimisation/harassment, and make sure it does not happen again.

It is important to know that this type of investigation is not a police investigation. It will not result in punishments. The employer has a responsibility to put in measures to create a good work environment, which usually means dialogue and mediation. 

Your manager is responsible for ensuring that the victimisation or harassment ceases and is to work to prevent it happening again.

Prohibition against reprisals

If you have reported harassment or sexual harassment or pointed out that your employer in any other way violates the Discrimination Act, the employer or the person representing the employer may not subject you to reprisals. The protection also applies when someone has participated in an investigation under the Discrimination Act or has been rejected or subjected to harassment or sexual harassment.

Reprisals might take the form of your employment not being prolonged, a low salary increase, or being given too much or too little to do at work, for example.

What support is available?

Contact your union representative or the health and safety representative for support and advice during the investigation.

Your manager can help you get support through counselling, via the occupational health service or outside support.

Occupational Health Service