Do companies hire criminals

Professional confidentiality - from insider to criminal

Do you love to talk to your best friend on the phone, you are constantly asked questions about your job, and you constantly stumble over topics of conversation that are actually taboo for people outside the company? Now you are wondering where the limits of the legal are? In this article we answer important questions about the topic.

The legal basis

  • In ยง 203 StGB it is regulated that a Up to one year imprisonment is possible if one reveals a trade secret. An alternative to this is a Fine In addition, the respective employer can make claims for damages.
  • Once you read through your employment contract, you will come across a confidentiality clause. This obligation is a secondary obligation of the employment relationship.

What happens if I breach my confidentiality obligation?

If you, as an employee, are caught breaking your confidentiality obligations, you can get one from your employer Warning or one termination receive. If your job is one of the jobs with a professional confidentiality obligation, you can also get a Occupational lock threaten. Such a professional confidentiality obligation applies to doctors or pastors, for example. Confidentiality is a code of honor here.

In which professional groups is confidentiality less important?

Are you unable to keep secrets to yourself and therefore want to be careful about your career choice? The more sensitive the data you have to deal with in a job, the more important the secrecy is. In principle, however, a certain amount of confidentiality is expected in almost all professions.

In principle, it cannot be generalized in which jobs the confidentiality obligation plays a lesser role. Therefore, the following examples should be treated with caution. In any case, always follow the guidelines of your employer.

Examples of professions where confidentiality is less relevant:

Beautician, caretaker, cook, makeup artist, chimney sweep

There are of course numerous other professions in which sensitive data is not handled.

Confidential assistants

Do you know the situation when you go to the doctor and the medical assistant gets sensitive health data from you? Not only academics like the doctor, who is bound by his medical confidentiality obligation, is expected to handle trade secrets carefully. Incidentally, the amount of the doping does not matter. Breach of confidentiality is and remains a criminal offense.

Data protection as a self-employed person

Self-employed people are severely punished for violations of data protection: imprisonment of up to three years (Section 42 of the Federal Data Protection Act) is possible in this case.

Where does the duty of confidentiality end?

  • In general, as an employee, it makes sense to follow the following rule of thumb:

If you are not sure whether you are allowed to talk about something, it is better to be silent. You can also ask your employer what exactly falls under the confidentiality obligation.

  • Although your new employer made a serious impression at the beginning, will you one day find out that the company is committing crimes? For example, the offenses may fall into the field of pollution. In the case of criminal offenses, you are not bound by your confidentiality obligation.
  • If a trade secret has become publicly known, then of course you no longer have to remain silent on this topic.

Professional advancement

A post-contractual non-competition clause is linked to a cash payment by the employer. In some employment contracts, however, it is also regulated that the obligation of confidentiality may be broken if it prevents the person from professional advancement.

Is it allowed to talk about trade secrets after leaving an employment relationship?

While this was accepted in the past, the Federal Labor Court ruled that one has to adhere to the obligation to keep business secrets even after leaving a company.


In your professional life you can experience numerous exciting things that your own friends would also be interested in. Your employer has placed their trust in you by signing an employment contract with you. Even in view of the penalties that you can face if you do not follow the rules of the game, you should definitely develop very good self-control so that no trade secrets escape your lips.


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For reasons of readability, we use the masculine form (generic masculine), e.g. B. "the employee". We always mean all genders in terms of equal treatment. The shortened language form has editorial reasons and is neutral.