German government approves whistleblowers protection bill

The bill, approved by the German cabinet, will provide more legal protection to whistleblowers. Under a 2019 directive, the European Union also had pressure on Germany. Civil society organizations are criticizing the new bill as inadequate.

Clear instructions were also given by the European Union in this regard. They should have been implemented in German law in 2021 itself, but the previous government could not reach an agreement on changes to the law.

Federal Justice Minister and Free Democrats (FDP) leader Marco Bushman has drafted the bill. Through this, there is a mechanism to protect those who expose misconduct, abuse of office, and other types of violations in corporations or public administration.

Bushman said, “Employees in companies and public offices are often the first to highlight problems and complaints, and it is they who can ensure that violations of the law are detected, investigated, prosecuted, and Matters can stop.”

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Effective defenses for whistleblowers, according to him, can be an “essential need for a good obedience system that fosters a positive culture of mistakes”.

As of now, the situation under the existing law is that whistleblowers reporting abuse or abuse of position are putting themselves at significant risk.

What does the draft of the law actually say?

To gain protection under the law, whistleblowers must contact either internal reporting offices in companies and public administrations or external reporting offices in federal and state governments.

Companies with 50 or more employees will need to create some sort of internal reporting system. Companies with fewer than 250 employees can build these systems in partnership with other mid-sized employers to reduce costs.

The new law specifically protects whistleblowers from retaliation. Such as in the case of termination, warning, disciplinary action, favoritism, intimidation or damage to reputation.

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In retaliation cases, whistleblowers can file legal claims against their employers.

A Justice Ministry spokesman said the law would not apply if there was no “statutory justification” for the abuse.

According to the draft bill, the protection of evidence submitted to the press can be done only in exceptional cases. The same would apply to the allegations published on social media.

According to the draft of the bill, it aims to “enlarge” defenses that had hitherto been “half-hearted and inadequate”.

Civil society organizations such as the German Federation of Journalists (DJV) and Transparency Germany have called the proposed legislation inadequate.

DJV national president Frank Euberol said all whistleblowers have the right to protection. “It shouldn’t matter which violation of the law they uncovered.” He says that some violations may not be formally legal, but may only fall under illegitimate behavior, but whistleblowers should be able to make them public freely and fearlessly.

Sebastian Ollrich, leader of Transparency Germany’s whistleblower rescue group, says classified intelligence was often left out of defence. But reporting such violations to the Internal Reporting Office is not enough. The case of Edward Snowdon in America is a great example of this.

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