Whistleblowing and whistleblower protection

Whistleblowing and whistleblower protection

Lawyer for Whistleblowing and Whistleblower Protection Law

The Whistleblower Protection Act (HSchG) took the compliance world by storm in 2023. Since then at the latest, an internal whistleblower system is an important part of a professional compliance management system. As a specialised law firm, we are at your side in all legal matters relating to whistleblowing and whistleblower protection.
Als Anwalt für Whistleblowing bietet Ihnen Dr. Elias Schönborn vertrauliche Rechtsberatung zum HinweisgeberInnenschutzgesetz (HSchG) und Whistleblowing in Österreich

Legal framework for whistleblowing in Austria

The EU’s Whistleblower Directive requires EU member states to implement minimum standards for the protection of whistleblowers into national law. In Austria, the Whistleblower Protection Act (HSchG) came into force in 2023. The law enables whistleblowers to report legal violations confidentially. Whistleblowers enjoy special protection under this law and have both internal and external reporting channels at their disposal.

The HSchG made the Federal Bureau of Anti-Corruption (BAK) responsible as an external reporting office for whistleblowers. In addition, the whistleblower system of the Central Public Prosecutor’s Office for the Prosecution of Economic Crime and Corruption (WKStA) was already available for reporting economic and corruption offences. Companies and managers will therefore increasingly have to deal with external reports.

Whistleblowing as a legal interdisciplinary matter

From a legal perspective, whistleblowing is a interdisciplinary matter. Not only the HSchG, but also numerous other legal matters must be taken into account when setting up the reporting channel. Various aspects must also be taken into account when Reviewing Whistleblower Tips and initiating follow-up measures and Internal Investigations. These include, for example, criminal law, civil law, labour law, corporate law and data protection law issues.

Lawyer for whistleblowing throughout Austria

Whistleblowing Lawyer Dr. Elias Schönborn is a specialist in this area and regularly lectures on current topics in this field. In addition, he regularly publishes specialist articles on this area of law and is co-author of the first Austrian legal Commentary on the Whistleblower Protection Act.

As a specialized lawyer for the Whistleblower Protection Act, Dr Elias Schönborn, he supports you in all legal matters relating to whistleblowing and provides the following services for you nationwide in this context:

  • Legal Advice on the HSchG and on criminal and civil law issues relating to whistleblowing
  • Providing Legal Opinions and Conducting Presentations and Employee Training on these topics
  • Setting up the internal whistleblower system and acting as a Trusted Lawyer
  • Initial Legal Review of notices as part of the Tip-Check
  • Criminal Defense in the event of external indications to law enforcement authorities
  • Legal support for Internal Investigations following receipt of a whistleblower tip
  • Support with compliance measures after a whistleblower has revealed a gap in the company’s compliance management system
  • Assertion of claims for damages following the internal clarification of a whistleblower report in the course of Private Participation or the Initiation of Civil Proceedings

FAQ

  • 1. What does whistleblowing mean?

    Whistleblowing is the act of reporting legal violations by a whistleblower. Whistleblowing may occur within an organization (e.g. in a company) or externally (e.g. to a public authority or the police).
  • 2. In which cases is it advisable to consult a lawyer specialising in whistleblowing and whistleblower protection law?

    In the event that you wish to implement an internal whistleblowing system within your company, it can be helpful to have a lawyer with expertise in this area on your side. He will assist in the selection of the most appropriate platform provider and support you in setting up the reporting channel in accordance with the law. Even in the event of receiving a whistleblower report regarding possible misconduct within the company, it may be advisable to consult with a lawyer who can support you in properly conducting an internal investigation.
  • 3. What does the Whistleblower Protection Act (HSchG) regulate in Austria?

    The HSchG primarily regulates the protection of whistleblowers, namely individuals who submit a whistleblower report. The HSchG defines which reports are protected (material scope of application) and who is covered by the scope of protection (personal scope of application). Furthermore, the HSchG regulates the requirements for an internal whistleblower system as well as the specific stipulations pertaining to confidentiality and the protection of the identity of whistleblowers. The Whistleblower Protection Act also regulates the prohibition of retaliation, liability provisions, rules on the burden of proof and penalties for violations of the HSchG.

    The HSchG therefore aims to create a safe environment for whistleblowers by providing them with adequate protection without fear of reprisals.
  • 4. To what extent does the Whistleblower Protection Act (HSchG) protect whistleblowers who point out possible wrongdoing?

    In particular, the HSchG protects whistleblowers against retaliatory measures. Consequently, any retaliatory measures taken in response to a justified whistleblower tip are either legally ineffective or give rise to a claim for damages by the whistleblower. Moreover, the identity of the whistleblower must be strictly protected by both internal and external bodies. Furthermore, the protected whistleblower is not held legally responsible for the consequences of a justified whistleblower report.
  • 5. My company has received a tip from a whistleblower. How can a law firm help me?

    A law firm can provide you with comprehensive legal support in responding to a whistleblower in an appropriate manner and ensuring that the company complies with applicable laws and effectively protects the interests of the whistleblower. The assistance of an experienced lawyer can be particularly beneficial in the initial legal assessment of the report and the further clarification of the report as part of an internal investigation. The law firm will inform you of your company's rights and obligations and explicitly ensure compliance with the provisions of the HSchG, if applicable.

Do you have questions about Whistleblowing or do you need legal support?

Contact us.