Internal whistleblowing complaints have become an essential mechanism for addressing unlawful conducts in the corporate environment. However, can a company refuse to process an internal complaint if it considers that there is insufficient evidence or insufficient information provided by the whistleblower?
The answer to this question depends on several factors and aspects.
For example, the legislation currently in force in each European country and each company’s own internal policies.
In many countries, whistleblowing legislation was transposed from the EU directive. The intention is to protect whistleblowers. Along with promoting a more ethical and transparent environment within the organizations. The primary objective of this new legislation is to encourage employees to report illegal activities in the business environment. That is, without fear of being exposed by other colleagues. These laws establish clear procedures for whistleblowing and whistleblower protection.
However, the lack of sufficient evidence or information poses a challenge in the process of managing the whistleblowing channel. An employee may report internally based on legitimate suspicions or concerns. But without the obligation to provide concrete evidence. Faced with this scenario, companies may be faced with the decision of whether or not to investigate such a report.
In many cases, whistleblowing laws state that companies must investigate all complaints. This is regardless of the depth of the gateway approved by the whistleblower. This ensures that no illegal act goes unexamined due to a lack of solid evidence. The aim of this legislation is to create an enabling environment for employees to report without worrying that their complaint will be rejected if they fail to provide strong evidence in the first instance.
This does not mean that there are no situations where the company questions the viability of an investigation due to a lack of evidence or information. This could include anonymous allegations without sufficient detail, vague allegations or allegations without solid grounds. In these situations, companies should consider whether the information provided in the complaint would be sufficient to justify the launch of an internal investigation or even action by a third party (either a competent authority or a court).
What if the Company Refuses to Process the Whistleblower Complaint?
If a company refuses to manage a complaint without motivation or relevant justification, it may expose itself to legal risks, including sanctions. Therefore, companies should have clear policies and procedures in place to manage such situations. And that they establish requirements for the validation of internal whistleblowing complaints, in accordance with the law.
To encourage whistleblowers to provide all the information necessary to make a substantiated report, it is vital that companies ensure confidentiality and anonymity at all stages of the internal whistleblowing process.
Lack of evidence should not be a reason to reject a report without sufficient justification. However, companies should make informed decisions and comply with existing legislation to protect whistleblowers and ensure the integrity of their internal processes.
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