Consulting for Whistleblowers

You, or any friends of yours, have discovered misconduct in your working environment and don’t know how to deal with this? If so, you will find some first non-binding information, as well as the reference data for getting into contact with our consulting team.

Please understand that we cannot answer every inquiry, as we have to restrict our activities to what is currently feasible for us within the framework of our volunteer work.

Before you contact us with data, facts, and questions with respect to your case, please read the relevant texts on this website carefully. Please check whether you are really concerned with whistleblowing, what questions are still open after your perusal, what the long-term objective of your activities is, and what specific support you can expect from us. The better you are prepared, the more effectively can we employ our scarce resources and react to your inquiry to your satisfaction.

 

© Arek Socha on Pixabay

Consulting Concept

1. Mission and Cause of our Consulting Work

Against the background of the promotion of whistleblowing, Whistleblower-Netzwerk offers general consulting and/or referral of consulting services for (potential) whistleblowers and is also actively involved in networking and public relations.

This way, the association commits itself to looking after the people concerned as specifically as possible and aims to help them in their respective situations.

2. Target Group and Prerequisites for Use

A clear and unambiguous definition of the terms ‚whistleblower‘ and ‚whistleblowing‘ exists neither in Germany nor in the international arena. Our website indicates what we understand by it, while it makes a certain openness of the definition apparent. This applies e.g. to the question whether a whistleblower can also be someone who stands up for their own rights or whether a whistleblower always has to be concerned with nothing else than the common good.

As an association with a modest number of active honorary members, we focus on auf whistleblowing of employees in connection with their work or service activities in our consulting work, and here especially on those cases that involve considerable misconduct which concern a larger number of other persons, the environment or the public interest and common good, as well as those cases where the whistleblower as such does not have any enforceable rights.

Therefore, the offers presented in this concept are only directed to (potential) whistleblowers who have called attention to considerable misconduct at their place of work or are toying with the idea of doing so, in the public interest. This, however, does not include the cases of bullying at work for which there are separate advisors or consulting services and networks.

We reserve the right not to react to inquiries that are made within the scope of a larger mailing list, without addressing any specific individual, not stating any specific issue, in a linguistically or logically incomprehensible manner or without stating any reference of the individual concern to the subject of whistleblowing at work (see above). This also applies to a mere transmission of large amounts of documents, links to websites, or press releases.

3. Basics

For us, consulting means offering assistance to (potential) whistleblowers for their individual case or helping them find it. We ourselves lend a helping hand and see to it that the whistleblower receives professional psychological, legal, and, where appropriate, also media-related or political support for his or her concern.

Every consulting activity we undertake is based on the personal responsibility of the (potential) whistleblower as well as their der willingness to cooperate with our staff; it supports them in taking the right decisions and in solving their current problems which were caused by whistleblowing.

We can therefore provide significant help for the decisions whistleblowers have to take. However, the objective of our consulting is definitely not to advise someone to go ahead with whistleblowing under any circumstances.

As we understand our work to be partial in favour of the whistleblower, those who contact us can safely assume that we look at every case in a completely unbiased fashion and will always endeavour not to jump to any hasty conclusions (for example based on public opinion).

What is important: No therapeutic, legal, or journalistic work is possible within the scope of our consulting! We will, however, be pleased to refer you to the appropriate local experts!

4. Consulting Setting

We have appropriate rooms available in Berlin that enable us – according to previous agreement – to conduct personal conversations in an undisturbed atmosphere. As currently all our team members who work in consulting on a voluntary basis are domiciled in Berlin, personal consulting will, as a rule, only take place here, according to individual agreement. In arrangement with us, third parties (persons of trust) may be present during the personal conversation.

5. Data Protection and Confidentiality

Personal data and information made available to us within the framework of our consulting, are treated confidentially, and all data protection requirements are observed.

Information which can identify a person, a case, or an affected organisation, is only communicated between the members of the consulting team and, where appropriate, between the Board Members of the Association at the most, but under no circumstances communicated outside the association without the consent of the respective whistleblower. In addition, you have the possibility to object to any disclosure of information, also to other members of the consulting team or the Board

Please be aware of the fact that we do not possess any legal rights to refuse to give evidence and that you may violate your obligations under labour law or service law, possibly even criminal law rules, as soon as you get in contact with us, and especially, when you disclose secrets to us. You should be aware of the limits that may exist in this regard. It is no problem for us not to know your identity and that of the organisation concerned, and not to learn any details, at least in a first stage, or to communicate with you on the basis of hypothetically assumed facts and circumstances.

6. Networking

Whistleblower-Netzwerk is currently working on the expansion of our contacts to further lawyers. We believe that in addition to consulting – i.e. clarifying matters, providing information and accompanying you – further experts from the field of legal consulting or therapeutic help should be available to you.

7. Contact Options and Security Measures for Communication

7.1. Contact Options

Whistleblowers can get into contact with us in various ways. You can speak to us personally e.g. before and after presentations at public events or at information stands. You can contact us by mail or telephone, or by email. Our contact data:

Twitter: @Whistleblower_N

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Whistleblower-Netzwerk-eV

Email for general inquiries: info@whistleblower-net.de

However, we point out to the fact that we cannot guarantee one hundred per cent security with regard to the above address.

7.2. Secure Communication

In times of comprehensive data storage and unbridled monitoring, 100% secure communication is an illusion, yet you should endeavour not to make it unnecessarily easy for those who want to spy out your communications metadata and communications content. On the other hand, a higher degree of communication security requires more time and effort in most cases – especially when communicating for the first time – and the closer you want to get to secure communication, the more effort you will have to make.

The basic rule for every whistleblower should be:

No communication, internet search, or use in connection with whistleblowing at your place of work, or using devices such as a company laptop or a mobile telephone or services like email accounts or clouds which your employer has made available or to which your employer has access.

This starts already when you visit our website or our offers in the social media. When the boss starts to search for the so-called „traitor“, he or she will certainly suspect you as soon as they spot you surfing our website or when they retrace this in their weblog.

8. Our Consulting Offers

8.1. Step 1: Initial Information on our Website

In addition to the individual consulting services explained below, Whistleblower-Netzwerk provides on its website in the area „What we offer“ „Consulting and tips for …“ some general information and useful advice for (potential) whistleblowers and other target groups. In the area „Contact“, and especially on the sub-site „useful information for submissions“, you will find important notes.

8.2. Step 2: Initial Contact and Preparation

Options for Initial Contact

Initial contact will be made by the whistleblower, as a rule.

Preparation: Presentation of Facts and Circumstances

It is important that you prepare as thoroughly as possible even before first getting into contact with us.

To be able to help you, we need to know in what situation you are and what exactly happened. A chronological presentation of events and a focus on the most important misconduct, as well as just a few facts and occurrences which are necessary to understand the matter better, have proved to be of greatest help. Ideally, you should be able to describe everything on no more than two text pages.

Preparation: Description of Objective

Also, you and we need to know what you expect from us. Please tell us what you expect from us as precisely as possible and consider the following: the more limited and specific your mandate to us is, the faster and more precisely will we be able to react to it, and the less information will we require from you.

You should consider in advance what information you want to disclose to us about yourself and your situation, what is especially important to you (e.g. exposure of misconduct , criminal prosecution of perpetrators, correction of past wrongdoings, prevention of future repetitions/ misconduct , limitation of your own losses and risks, safeguarding your job, good working atmosphere and relationship with your colleagues …) and what risks you (and, where appropriate, your relatives) are prepared to bear.

8.3. Step 3: Reaction to Initial Contact

Afterwards, we will first examine whether your inquiry falls into our field of activities and especially into our consulting activities, i.e. is there a comprehensible individual inquiry, is there a comprehensible description of facts and circumstances, and is it sufficiently clear what the inquirer expects from us?

8.4. Step 4: In-Depth Consulting

If one of the above prerequisites are met, fee-based legal consulting and a direct conversation or, at least, communication over the telephone will follow.

Clarification of Expectations and Objectives

To enable us to provide and safeguard such in-depth consulting , it is important that you bring along your specific objectives or to define them together with us in the course of the consulting sessions, while we will always orient ourselves to the current situation of the advice-seeker.

When defining the objectives  the following questions arise for the person concerned:

What is my current situation, what exactly does the misconduct consist of, and what evidence do I have to support my allegations?

What do I presume, what do I know for sure, what can I prove lawfully for submission to a court, what do I want to achieve with the whistleblowing, and what risks am I prepared to assume?

Also, questions regarding your own safety and self-protection are important, like:

Can I proceed anonymously or confidentially, or do I want to act openly?

Do I make myself vulnerable to attack with my procedure, legally or factually, and what alternatives do I have, where applicable, also outside the current organisation/situation?

If you are a whistleblower already, it is essential for you to analyse the reactions to your whistleblowing together with us, and to ask critical questions about them, like e.g.:

Have I prepared and documented my information well enough and have I chosen the right time as well as the right addressee?

Which other addressee comes into question next (internally, as well as government agencies or other external bodies)?

Case Analysis and Joint Development of Perspectives

If, after a first conversation with us, there is further interest in consulting and support, we will dedicate ourselves to the exact case analysis. Here it is essential to gather precise information about the case and to arrange it in the form of a chronology:

Is there evidence for the statements, and when and where were the observations made?

What steps have already been taken in the direction of whistleblowing, what were the reactions to them, and has the person concerned already received legal consulting ?

Discussion of Negative Effects up to now and Clarification of Motivation

The primary goal is here to clarify which negative consequences the whistleblowing has had up to now, or which consequences are to be expected. As the (justified) fear of such consequences plays a significant role for the decision on the further procedure, we offer to discuss these consequences and (should your decision concerning the following activities be firm), to motivate you to carry on in order to achieve the desired objective.

8.5 Step 5: Providing Information for further Consulting Services

In this phase of the consulting process, it is to be shown which additional possibilities for action exist in regard to your case.

Whistleblower-Netzwerk can provide you with contacts for legal consulting in this regard, and, if required, we can also support you in the direction of public relations or refer you to journalists.

8.6. Step 6: Specific Support Activities

In addition to consulting sessions and referrals, some specific support activities that we provide could consist in supporting you in writing letters (e.g. to government agencies or to potential supporters) or in using the possibilities of the freedom of information laws, to accompany you, and possibly also to report about court hearings and judgments in similar cases on our Website.

9. Objectives and Limits of Legal Consulting

Whistleblower-Netzwerk does not provide any binding legal consulting with regard to the applicable Legal Services Act; the objective of our consulting is merely to show legal possibilities for asserting improvements of working conditions.

To our legal consulting in whistleblower cases, the guiding principles apply which the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter: ECtHR) set up in its leading decision of 21 July 2011 (case of the Berlin geriatric nurse Brigitte Heinisch), which are as follows:

  1. The freedom of expression protected by Article 10 of the ECHR also applies to employment relationships.
  2. The employee’s duty of loyalty requires the whistleblower to turn to his or her superior first with their complaints regarding illegal practices or misconduct. Only when this is not possible will the duty of loyalty be reduced so far that the employee may go public and even lodge a criminal complaint (whistleblowing).
  3. If there is a public interest to be informed about misconduct in a company, this company’s interest of protecting its good business reputation and its economic interests will have to give way.
  4. If the employer dismisses the employee in a case of whistleblowing, a dismissal without notice is disproportionately severe and not necessary in a democratic Society.

Guiding Principles of our Consulting

We wish that more and more people will muster up enough civil courage to become a whistleblower where necessary and point to misconduct. There are constellations in which it is not advisable to proceed along the internal path of an organisation. Whistleblowers are courageous and prove their loyalty towards society. We wish that whistleblowing will be recognised as a better alternative to remaining silent and will also be practiced.

We also wish that whistleblowers treat themselves and others honestly and respectfully, in the awareness that everybody is fallible and that there may be many reasons for conduct observed which the observer may not see at first. We show understanding for everyone who, in view of the constraints and fears they are exposed to, decides against whistleblowing in their specific situation and chooses an approach which is more suitable for them at the time. We do not want any compulsion to resort to whistleblowing, neither from the state, nor by companies and other organisations, we rather want everybody to take a decision of their own free will which is carefully considered and justifiable to themselves and to others in the long run. We are prepared to accept this decision.

Five Tips for Potential Whistleblowers:

  1. Proceed systematically: Be informed, prepared, and try to anticipate your counterpart’s next step, and have alternatives.
  2. Preserve respect: When you start to see enemies everywhere and to treat people like this, you will lose.
  3. Document neatly: Collect the facts and let them speak for themselves. Speculations and accusations will not help.
  4. Look for support: Personal and professional support and solidarity will help, but it is often hard work to acquire them and to keep them.
  5. Avoid points of attack: When your counterpart is unable to refute your facts, things threaten to become personal and dangerous; do not offer any points of attack.
FAQ Legal Status

Contact

Email: info@whistleblower-net.de

Twitter: @Whistleblower_N

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Whistleblower-Netzwerk-eV

Telephone: +49 162 73 93 65 1

Mail: Whistleblower-Netzwerk e.V.
c/o DJV (Deutscher Journalisten-Verband)
Alte Jakobstraße 79/80
10179 Berlin

We would like to point out specifically that when you get into contact with us by telephone, email and social media, you will be unprotected. You can also send us a letter. The most secure digital way is to write to our telephone number +49 162 73 93 65 1 via the encrypting Messengers of Signal or Telegram. You can download Signal here, and Telegram hereIf you want to send an anonymous email, you can do so with a „disposable email“. You can set it up e.g. on 10minutemail.com or nervmich.net.

Please try to answer the following questions for us. You do not have to mention any names or identifiable details.

  • What do you want to expose or what have you exposed (criminal offence, misconduct, danger?)
  • Do you have a suspicion or already evidence?
  • Is or was the misconduct in your own working environment?
  • What have you done so far?
  • How can we help you?

Our newsletter (only in German)

Do you want to be kept up-to-date with the latest news?

Support us!