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Why Swiss women don’t sue their employers

A funny approach to a serious issue: demonstrators urging Swiss lawmakers to foster pay equity Keystone/Alessandro della Valle

Few women in Switzerland sue their employers for wage discrimination – with good reason. It seldom works out.

This content was published on February 7, 2019 - 13:46
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Over the past four decades, 167 individual women and nine men – as well as 61 groups – have taken an employer to court. But despite the persistent wage gap in Switzerland, the number of wage discrimination lawsuits is on the decline.

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In addition to the inherent expense and awkwardness of suing the company that issues one’s paycheck, potential plaintiffs are put off by the fact that the chances of winning are slim. As University of Geneva law professor Karine Lempen told Swiss public television, SRFExternal link, it’s very difficult to prove an employer’s guilt.

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So instead, victims are more likely to approach the problem via an arbitration authority – with a greater likelihood of success. This method results in a settlement 69% of the time, whereas in court it’s 12%.

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Equal pay for equal work is a constitutional requirementExternal link in Switzerland. Yet according to the most recent figures, men earned 19.6% more than female colleagues in 2016. At the end of 2018, parliament passed a law requiring companies with over 100 employees to perform regular pay equity checks.

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