Whistleblowing is the exposure of misconduct, alleged dishonest or illegal behaviour occuring in an organization. Edward Snowden, a computer analyst whistleblower, revealed secret NSA documents about the surveillance of communications around the world. Snowden is prosecuted by the American authorities for theft of government property and unauthorized communication of national defense information. However, is whistleblowing considered a crime in every job?
In German companies, blowing the whistle on employers generally is not a reason for being lawfully fired. Whistleblowers even enjoy protection under german employment law as long as they stick with the rules of the jurisdiction. After this, an employee cannot be terminated if he unsuccessfully tried to clarify internal matters, if there was no more discrete mean to do so and if he was in good faith to reveal a deficit of public interest. According to this, an exposure a la Snowden in a german company would not lead to the termination of the employee.
This jurisdiction is based on a case in 2011 where a female employee of a nursing-home sued her employer: she revealed internal deficits to her employer and eventually pressed charges against him because of fraud. She was fired – unlawfully according to the European Court of Human Rights (Urteil vom 21. Juli 2011, Beschwerde-Nr. 28274/08). According to Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, she was protected by the right of freedom of speech. However, it has to be kept in mind that a differentiation between the exposure of deficits of public interest and the duty of loyalty to the employer might be necessary and not that easy.
Author: Anja Rettig Legal Intern at BridgehouseLaw Charlotte