Top French authority demands law to protect whistleblowers

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

PARIS (AP) — France's top administrative authority has urged the government to pass a new law aimed specifically at better protecting whistleblowers and making sure their warnings aren't ignored.

The Council of State made a series of proposals Wednesday, including a legal guarantee that whistleblowers be shielded from retaliatory measures from companies or administrations and that their names aren't made public.

The top French administrative court, which is also in charge of advising the government on drawing up bills, recommended that it be made compulsory for government agencies to let whistleblowers know how their warnings are followed up on.

Private companies are urged to do the same.

The council advised the government to set up a web portal that would receive warnings from whistleblowers and direct them to the relevant authorities.

The report suggested whistleblowers should follow a gradual way of communication for disclosing their warnings, first by informing the internal managements or ethics departments of the targeted organizations, then by reporting to relevant outside authorities such as professional boards, or administrative authorities, and only as a last resort to go public.

Exemptions would be allowed when there is a risk that evidence would be destroyed as a result of the disclosure.

Whistleblowers would be fully and legally protected from sanctions only if they would respect the different steps in their communications. In such cases, courts would annul any measures taken by companies or public agencies in retaliation for disclosing embarrassing information, including firing, demotion, discrimination, forced job transfer or a pay cut.

The Council of State asked the government to have even outside collaborators or contributors working occasionally in companies or administrations protected as whistleblowers.

The proposed law wouldn't apply to journalists and other professionals whose jobs consist of investigating or controlling facts and potential wrongdoings in the same fields as non-professional whistleblowers.