Editorial: Strengthen system to protect whistleblowers
Many of those who have blown the whistle on wrongdoing involving their colleagues or employers have complained that they have been dismissed or transferred to unimportant divisions.
The Whistleblower Protection Act came into force eight years ago, but the spirit of the legislation has not been sufficiently respected. The system to protect whistleblowers needs to be reinforced by amending the law or taking other effective measures to prevent those who try to correct an injustice from being treated unfavorably.
The law is aimed at protecting workers, including public servants, who blow the whistle on criminal activities they witness at their workplaces to their employers or administrative organs. The Consumer Affairs Agency that enforces the law is hearing the views of experts and those who have experience of blowing the whistle in an effort to grasp the situation of whistleblowing and consider challenges that must be overcome.
The agency has recently interviewed those who have sued their employers for being unfavorably treated at their workplaces in retaliation for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing. One of the victims, an anesthetist who worked at a public hospital, notified high-ranking officials of his workplace that a dentist who had no license as an anesthetist was anesthetizing patients and that a fatal blunder had occurred. However, he was relieved from his post and forced to resign from the hospital. He also blew the whistle to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. But the ministry dismissed his complaint on the grounds that "the Whistleblower Protection Act does not apply to retirees" and that "it is prefectural governments that are authorized by the law to receive complaints from whistleblowers and issue recommendations to or take punitive measures against offenders."
These examples have demonstrated that whistleblowers are not being protected despite the legislation. The anesthetist requested that clauses providing punishment against employers that treat whistleblowers unfavorably and requiring administrative organizations to respond to whistleblowers in an appropriate manner be added to the law.
The Whistleblower Protection Act prohibits employers from dismissing or demoting employees or cutting their wages in retaliation for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing, but has no punitive clause against violators. Therefore, whistleblowers who have been treated unfavorably by their employers have no choice but to sue their employers to have the damage redressed.
The results of a survey that the Consumer Affairs Agency released last year show that 7 percent of whistleblowers or those who consulted their bosses or administrative organs about wrongdoing at their workplaces have been dismissed, and 21 percent have been unfavorably treated or harassed.
Critics have expressed fears that the introduction of punitive clauses could encourage workers to blow the whistle with evil intent. However, some form of punishments should be introduced against businesses and administrative organs that violate the law.
Problems involving administrative bodies that receive complaints from whistleblowers should be addressed. In at least one case, an administrative organization leaked the name of an employee who blew the whistle and the details of the worker's complaint to the company involved, allowing the firm to unfairly punish the whistleblower. As such, there have been calls for a clause to ban administrative bodies from leaking such information.
There have been calls for the establishment of a third-party body to receive complaints from whistleblowers as administrative bodies often share a mutual interest with businesses. These opinions are worthy of consideration.
Whistleblowers tend to be viewed by their colleagues or employers as traitors.
However, whistleblowing conducted in a fair manner could save the organizations they work for from an unfortunate predicament, and therefore whistleblowers should be protected.
毎日新聞 2014年08月18日 02時32分