In the Czech Republic, regulations concerning whistle-blowing are rather fragmented, as a clear definition is missing. In the past, the Czech government proposed incorporating a regulation dealing with whistle-blowing, as well as the protection of whistle-blowers, in the Czech Anti-Discrimination Act. However, the proposed amendment was ultimately refused by Parliament, and the issue of whistle-blowing has been put on hold.
A regulation in the Czech National Bank decree is dedicated solely to controlling mechanisms in the financial sector. A general regulation is contained in the Czech Labor Code, in the government regulation related to reporting suspicious conduct that is consistent with committing an offense vis-à-vis employment relationships in the public sector, and in the Czech Criminal Code. Nevertheless, these laws do not provide any comprehensive regulation with regard to whistle-blowing and other related conduct.
For instance, the Labor Code aims to protect employees from any arbitrary and discriminatory dismissal, and to ensure fair treatment of such employees, but does not provide any further guidelines on how the employees can raise complaints with their employer. Nor does it provide any specific protective measure with regard to retaliatory acts.
The procedures for following up on whistle- blowing reports are unclear, and there is no specialized institution dedicated to dealing with whistle-blower disclosures. Whistle-blowers who are subjected to retaliatory acts must rely on the courts for legal remedies and recourse.
The provisions of the Labor Code are supplemented by references to the Anti-Discrimination Act, which most notably deals with prohibited conduct and elaborates on discriminatory acts.
Notwithstanding, the law does not set forth protective measures for those who have, in good faith, reported acts that were committed in breach of commonly accepted social values, and it does not prescribe punitive measures to be imposed upon the perpetrators of these acts.
According to the Criminal Code, if employees or other individuals wish to report criminal behavior that has been committed (e.g., at the workplace), the individuals may file a non-anonymous complaint with the police, with a request not to disclose their identity in order to protect their rights and personal security and/or safety. It is possible to seek witness protection in the event of particularly dangerous or serious circumstances (e.g., the possibility of serious harm to an individual’s health or property, or violations of an individual’s constitutional rights).
Moreover, under the Criminal Code, an individual’s failure to report having witnessed a crime is a crime ipso facto. As such, a person who fails to report a crime is punished by law; however, stipulations are lacking in terms of providing for the corresponding and proportionate protection of an individual who abides by the law and reports a crime.
Because of the lack of regulation, as well as the fact that whistle-blowing has become a hot topic over the past few years, there have been various initiatives seeking implementation of adequate safeguards. Transparency International Česká republika o.p.s. has established a Whistleblower Centre.
In addition, the Czech Constitutional Court has recently provided guidance on the whistle-blowing issue, and, at the very least, concluded that the principle of proportionality must be applied — that it is necessary to weigh public interest vs. employee loyalty.
Despite the failures of former governments, attempts are being made to enact regulation of whistle-blowing under labor law in the private and public sectors alike. Additional light could also be cast on this issue by the settled case law of the Czech courts.
Country-by-country and EU whistle-blowing rules need to be taken into account in setting the best practices and policies in this growing area of risk, including what an employer must do when faced with a whistle-blower claim, such as whether an investigation is required, protections of the employee who complained of company practices and litigation issues.
Best practice requires companies to take action in advance by creating a hotline and training its employees in ethical behavior.