Lindenstrauss: More protection for whistle-blowers

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss on Tuesday presented a 31-page report on the legal provisions for protecting whistle-blowers, the problems with the current law and recommendations for improvements. "Experience teaches us," he wrote, "that on many occasions, when an employee reveals corruption in his place of work, instead of focusing on the acts of corruption, the worker who revealed the corruption becomes the focus of attention and he suffers from persecution that often leads to dismissal." Lindenstrauss described at length the three existing arrangements for protecting whistle-blowers. They include the powers of the ombudsman, which is the state comptroller in a separate capacity to provide protection; the labor courts, which may also provide protection; and a law to encourage honesty in the public service, which, among other things, calls for recognizing and rewarding whistle-blowers. But Lindenstrauss said the existing measures were insufficient and recommended several innovations:
  • Strengthening the position of the internal comptroller of each ministry so that whistle-blowers will reveal their information to him, rather than expose themselves by going to the ombudsman or the court.
  • Extending the right of the ombudsman to hear requests for help by all bodies that are under the scrutiny of the state comptroller. Currently, the employees of many organizations that can be investigated by the state comptroller regarding proper administration may not complain to the ombudsman according to the law. This lacuna includes the various workers' unions. A bill to change the situation is under discussion in the Knesset.
  • The Knesset should consider extending the law so that not only those who reveal acts of corruption will be regarded as whistle-blowers, but also those who reveal instances of improper administration also will.
  • The Knesset should consider amending the State Comptroller Law to provide clear criteria to help determine whether there is a direct connection between the dismissal of an employee and his complaint about his superiors. If there is reason to believe that there is a causal connection, the burden of proof should shift to the employer.
  • The Knesset should consider amending the law so that either the plaintiff or the employer may appeal against the decision to grant to deny protection to the employee. This right would be limited in time and be dependent on the presentation of new facts or changes in circumstances.