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Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblower Protections
All text below on this page is taken directly from GAP's handbook, The Corporate Whistleblower's Survival Guide, authored by GAP Legal Director Tom Devine and former GAP Investigator Tarek Maassarani. For more information on the book, click here.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) provides whistleblower protection for employees of publicly traded companies. No officer, employee, contractor, subcontractor, or other agent of a publicly traded company may fire, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, or in any other way discriminate against an employee with respect to job, job duties, or benefits because the employee has lawfully provided information either directly or indirectly or assisted in an investigation regarding any conduct which the employee believes to constitute mail, wire, bank, or securities fraud; any violation of rules or regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission; or any federal law concerning fraud against shareholders to a federal regulatory or law enforcement agency, a member of Congress or a congressional committee, or a person with supervisory authority over the employee or another person with authority within the organization. The law further protects those who file, testify, participate, or assist in a proceeding that will be filed or has been filed regarding any of the previously mentioned violations with the knowledge of the employer. (This is not to imply that the employee must seek consent of the employer, but the employer must be aware that the employee has raised concerns.)
Anyone who feels they have been either discharged or discriminated against by anyone in violation of the above may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor. One must file a claim no later than 180 days after the date on which the violation occurs. If the Secretary of Labor has not issued a final decision on the individual's complaint within 180 days of the filing, absent any bad faith of the complaining party, the complainant may file an action for de novo review in federal court in the appropriate district regardless of the amount in controversy.
A complainant who prevails is entitled to all the relief necessary to adequately compensate the individual. The individual may be entitled to: compensatory damages; reinstatement with the same seniority he or she would have had absent the retaliation; back pay with interest; and compensation for costs, or “special damages” that occurred because of the retaliation, such as litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney's fees. Complainants seeking protection under this law should be mindful that they may have additional rights, privileges, or remedies under other laws, both state and federal, as well as rights under a collective bargaining agreement where applicable, which they may wish to exercise.