In 2002, Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
This Act protects employees, contractors, subcontractors, and agencies of publicly traded companies who report Securities and Exchange Commission violations or any provision of federal law relating to fraud against the shareholders.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) broadly defines protected activity to include reports made to federal regulatory and law enforcement agencies, Congress, an employee’s supervisor, and internal corporate investigators. The Act also protects employees who participate or testify in SEC regulatory proceedings or other federal proceedings related to fraud against shareholders.
Adverse changes to the whistleblowers terms and conditions of employment are prohibited. This includes a wide range of actions from reprimands to termination and blacklisting.
A complaint filed under SOX must be filed with the Department of Labor in writing within 180 days of the time an employee learns that he or she will be, or has been, subjected to discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.
Two major advantages of using SOX are (1) it prohibits mandatory arbitration; and (2) it requires OSHA to conduct an initial investigation into the claim
Employees who prevail under SOX are entitled to:
- Back Pay with interest
- Complete “make-whole” compensation (including restoration of seniority/sick leave, etc.)
- “Special Damages” (for emotional distress and loss of professional reputation)*
- Attorneys’ fees and costs
- “Affirmative Relief” (such as requiring a letter of apology and formal posting of the decision)
*If an employee is seeking “special damages,” that relief should be requested in their initial complaint.
Many other federal and state laws have been enacted to protect corporate whistleblowers. The Whistleblower's Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing What's Right and Protecting Yourself contains twenty-one clear and comprehensive rules that fully explain the "how" to effectively blow the whistle and potentially qualify for financial rewards. This book is also available directly from the publisher, or at a public library. It is very important that you review this resource in order to determine what laws may protect you and whether you need to take immediate action to protect your rights.
See our SOX Resource page here.