New Title: Softening of Whistleblower Law Allows Ignoring of Anonymous Reports

Whistleblower law softened: Anonymous reports may be ignored after all

German authorities and companies will no longer be obliged to investigate anonymous reports of abuses under a new whistleblower law, following negotiations between the Bundestag and Bundesrat. The law will now only contain a recommendation that reporting offices process anonymous tips while whistleblowers will be advised to first report grievances internally. The bill originally passed the Bundestag in December 2020 but was rejected by the Federal Council in February 2021 due to concerns over costs and bureaucracy, and the need to follow up on anonymous reports.

Under the compromise, the law will apply only if information relates to an employer or another body with which the whistleblower had professional contact. The burden of proof if a whistleblower is professionally disadvantaged remains but now only exists if the whistleblower asserts this themselves. Compensation for immaterial damages for whistleblowers will be abolished, and the maximum fine for breaching the law will be reduced from 100,000 to 50,000 euros.

The law is expected to come into force in mid-June, a month after being passed by the Bundestag and Bundesrat. This follows the European Union (EU) Commission taking legal action against Germany for failing to comply with the 2019 EU directive on protecting whistleblowers by the end of 2021.

Critics of the law have expressed disappointment, with the managing director of whistleblower network Kosmas Zittel arguing that it shows the Union parties and parts of the economy still have reservations about whistleblowers. Legal scholar Simon Gerdemann warns that the deletion of immaterial claims for damages could leave whistleblowers vulnerable to reprisals and violate EU requirements.

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