forumZFD takes its duty of care as an employer very seriously. That goes for all countries in which it is active. That is why various mechanisms have been put in place that members of staff, members of forumZFD’s various bodies, partner organisations and externals can use to report possible misconduct in relation to forumZFD’s work. These mechanisms help to identify where things may be going wrong at an early stage and enable appropriate action to be taken. Complaints can be raised both in relation to misconduct by an individual or in relation to possible structural issues within the organisation itself.
forumZFD assesses all reports of misconduct and endeavours to conscientiously and carefully resolve them. forumZFD ensures that no person suffers any disadvantages on account of having made information available in good faith. Anyone who does so is protected against reprisals, regardless of who a report is made to. At the same time, intentionally false accusations made with the intention of harming others will not be tolerated.
Bases for reporting misconduct
A report of misconduct can refer either to organisational rules that have been adopted by forumZFD or to external rules and regulations, in particular legislation. One and the same matter may constitute both a breach of internal guidelines and a violation of statutory legislation. The prohibition of discrimination is one such example: Both forumZFD’s Code of Conduct and Germany’s General Act on Equal Treatment (Allgemeines Gleichstellungsgesetz – AGG) prohibit discrimination. That means that discrimination can be reported both as a breach of the Code of Conduct and as a complaint under the General Act on Equal Treatment.
forumZFD has adopted various guidelines and codices in order to mainstream uniform standards of good conduct. Reports of misconduct can be based on the following, for instance:
- Code of Conduct
- Public Relations Code of Conduct
- General Act on Equal Treatment (external Link)
- Data protection laws
- Other local legislation, e.g. labour protection laws
Reporting points and reporting channels
There are various reporting points you can contact and reporting channels you can use to make a report. Here are three specific reporting points:
- A report can be made via this online portal. Depending on the type of report/complaint, it will be forwarded to one of the relevant contact points: General complaints are forwarded to the Head of Human Resources; complaints under the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) are forwarded to the AGG team; reports of data protection violations are processed by our data protection officer.
- It is possible to also make an anonymous report via the same online portal. However, it is recommended that reports are not made anonymously, as including your name makes handling the case easier.
- Reports relating to corruption and economic crime can be made to the ombudsperson: Gero Klinkhammer (e-mail: email@example.com).
Who can report alleged misconduct?
Anyone associated with forumZFD in any way can report suspected misconduct. That also applies where someone has not themselves observed any misconduct but has had their attention drawn to possible misconduct by others or suspects that misconduct has occurred but is not themselves involved.
Neither the person making a report nor anyone providing assistance may suffer any disadvantages in the exercise of the right to make a report.
- The person making a report decides to officially report alleged misconduct and thus becomes the person raising a complaint.
- The person they contacted then explains the further procedure to the person raising the complaint and invites them to an in-person or online meeting. Minutes are taken at that meeting. After the end of the meeting the person raising the complaint receives the minutes, is given the opportunity to amend them if necessary and then signs them.
- The information provided by the person raising the complaint is then considered. Others who are involved (including the person(s) against whom the complaint has been made) may possibly also be interviewed. In some cases, the person raising the complaint will also be contacted again to answer any questions that may arise. All these steps are documented.
- As soon as all the required documentation has been gathered together, the Board Member Human Resources is called in and a decision is taken on whether there has been any misconduct or not.
- The person raising the complaint will normally be informed of the decision in writing within two weeks.
In addition to raising a non-anonymous complaint, there is also the option of contacting an internal reporting point anonymously. However, raising a complaint anonymously is not recommended, as adding your name makes handling the case easier.
Staff and externals can make a report without stating their name or email address via the online portal. The greatest level of anonymity can be achieved by calling up the website via the Tor browser. After raising a complaint, the person raising the complaint is sent a personal numerical code that can be used to call up the complaint at a later point in time. That is important, because it opens up a channel of communication via which follow-up questions can be asked without the need to input any personal contact data.
Anonymous complaints are forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org. Depending on the type of report/complaint, it will be forwarded to one of the relevant contact points:
- General complaints are forwarded to the Head of Human Resources;
- Complaints under the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) are forwarded to the AGG team;
- Reports of data protection violations are processed by our data protection officer.
Reporting misconduct to the ombudsperson
The ombudsperson is responsible for matters involving corruption and economic crime and is the preferred reporting point for anyone wishing to report such cases of suspected misconduct. Corruption and economic crime include accepting an undue advantage, corruption, bribery, theft, misappropriation, fraud and breach of trust, forgery of documents and betrayal of company/business secrets.
The ombudsperson is independent, neutral and treats all matters as confidential. The ombudsperson is a legal expert and is not on forumZFD’s payroll.
Procedure and duty of confidentiality
The contact point for reports or complaints relating to corruption and economic crime is the ombudsperson commissioned by forumZFD: Gero Klinkhammer (email@example.com), who is based in Germany and provides his services in German or English.
- The ombudsperson should as a rule first be contacted by email.
- The person making the report and the ombudsperson then reach a decision, by mutual agreement, about whether to pass the report on to forumZFD and in what level of detail.
- Finally, the forumZFD Board investigates the matter internally based on the information it has been given; the ombudsperson may assist the Board. In justified cases, either the forumZFD Supervisory Board or a person commissioned by the Supervisory Board takes on this task.
The ombudsperson is available throughout the entire procedure to answer any questions the person making the report may have and then provides them with feedback on the outcome. Depending on how complex the case is, this may take some time.
- The person making a report incurs no costs for contacting the ombudsperson.
- The ombudsperson may advise the person making a report and guarantee anonymity vis-à-vis forumZFD, but he may not act in the capacity of a practising lawyer.
- The person reporting misconduct may also contact the ombudsperson if they are themselves involved in the misconduct. The ombudsperson then advises the person making the report of the possible consequences (including under civil, criminal or labour law) and discusses further options with them.
- All the information provided here relates to the ombudsperson’s area of responsibility as defined in the above (corruption and economic crime).
Contacting the ombudsperson
Gero Klinkhammer (Specialist Lawyer for Labour Law)
Working languages: German and English
How to best describe the situation?
Processing a report of misconduct is made much easier if the matter is described as logically, understandably and in as much detail as possible. The following questions may help you do this:
- What type of misconduct has occurred?
- What actions or behaviour did the misconduct involve?
- Who was involved in the actions or behaviour (people)?
- Where did the misconduct occur (place, country)?
- When did the misconduct occur (period of time, date)?
- Is there any proof that the misconduct occurred (e.g. emails/documents/witnesses)?
What consequences can a report have?
The decision on what steps to take after a report has been made is taken on a case-by-case basis. As an employer, forumZFD can, for instance, decide to take disciplinary measures such as issuing a written warning, relocation or dismissal. In cases involving a violation of local legislation, forumZFD can report crimes to the police in line with the applicable laws. forumZFD can also itself take further measures such as providing coaching, supervision, workshops or mediation to improve the working atmosphere.
Can a person who has reported alleged misconduct also take legal action?
The reporting procedure can, in principle, be conducted alongside a criminal complaint/civil action or alternative dispute resolution mechanism. The complaints procedure under the General Act on Equal Treatment can also be conducted in addition to legal action. However, a claim for compensation or damages can only be filed if the discrimination was reported in writing within two months. This period begins to run on the date on which the person wishing to raise a complaint learns of the discrimination (section 15 (4) of the General Act on Equal Treatment).
 For the purposes of this document, “member of staff” includes national and international members of staff, full-time and part-time staff, staff on a fixed-term contract, temporary workers, volunteers, interns, advisers and freelancers employed by forumZFD.