Was whistleblower bullied in the WWF?

This week’s matchmaking session was not ordinary. Approximately thirty listeners were distributed in Room 513 of the Berlin Labor Court, which has only a few seats. Only the judge did not understand the rush. “I don’t know what’s important in this case,” he said. In the next hour, it was about a new field of law in German case law – and for the plaintiff concerned with the unbearable work environment.

An employee of the WWF in Germany has filed a lawsuit against her employer. The WWF is the organization that advertises with the panda as its logo, but other than that it doesn’t have a particularly flawless image. Projects in Africa and Asia are said to have condoned human rights abuses. The organization has not always been so lucky when it comes to choosing its advertising media. Supporters of the royal family have not forgotten Prince Philip of England and the former King of Spain, Juan Carlos, both of whom, despite being members of the animal protection organization, had nothing against a proper large hunt. In the meantime, he also appears to be swaying inwardly.

The current legal dispute relates to the case of a whistleblower who sued her employer for disclosing information. I reported a case of compliance to the WWF in November 2021. As it turned out at the public hearing, it was a management-level love affair, which, having become known, had to be dealt with apparently by a confidential departure of one of the people involved.

According to the plaintiff’s lawyer, the sweetheart who quit her job, received an amount of up to 50 thousand euros. In an email to the plaintiff, which arrived shortly before the court date, this was referred to as “reasonable termination indemnity.” Not a small amount for an organization that raises large amounts of donations.

The WWF hired a law firm to investigate the case. However, the report that was prepared appears to have been kept confidential. So the plaintiff sued to gain insight. Her lawyer referred to a directive from the European Union, which is not yet found in German law. Accordingly, the whistleblower is entitled to know what happened to their report three months later at the latest.

But the WWF, which lacks honesty and respect on its website, clearly lacks these values ​​in its employee. Her lawyer complained that she was being bullied after she pointed out a compliance violation. The lawyer explained that there was talk of the fact that she would have to expel her.

WWF lawyer: No right to information ‘until the last corner’

The WWF lawyer explained that the whistleblower could in no way claim the information “down to the last corner”. At the same time, he emphasized that they wanted clarification on a large scale. But not only the employee who went to court seemed to doubt it. Taz reported a letter signed by 26 department heads, demanding a transparent explanation of the incidents and saying they had lost confidence in senior management.

The WWF has its own whistleblowing policy and a portal that affected people can turn to to disclose grievances in their own company. Apparently, the plaintiff, who took advantage of it, had only flaws. “The way this system is administered cannot recommend its use,” her lawyer said in court.

WWF: Internal documents have not been edited

Marco Vollmar, head of communications and campaigns at WWF Germany, confirmed to the Berliner Zeitung newspaper that “an employee has brought to our attention potential compliance violations.” They are externally checked and “checked and evaluated” by the responsible committees. He said the lawsuit seeks internal documents from the investigation and information on its findings. “To the extent these claims are justified in accordance with the GDPR and the yet-to-be-passed Whistleblower Protection Bill, that request has been complied with for weeks.” It is not possible for WWF Germany to do with respect to the personal rights of third parties.

The appointment was unsuccessful. Now there should be a new hearing in November.

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