How does Sarbanes-Oxley protect whistleblowers in Texas?

conference roomThe Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (Sarbanes Oxley) is a federal law that provides protection to those who work for publicly traded companies and who inform authorities about SEC regulation violations or federal law violations connected to fraud against corporate shareholders. The law prohibits retaliation, discrimination, or harassment in the workplace against Texas whistleblowers.

Retaliation is any adverse change to the whistleblower’s terms and conditions of employment, and it can include anything from a simple reprimand to termination or blackballing. It’s not just those who work directly for publicly traded companies who are protected, but also agencies, contractors, and subcontractors of publicly traded companies.

The law includes as protected whistleblower activity any reports sent to federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies about violations, as well as reports to a supervisor, investigators within the company, and Congress. Employees who testify or who are involved in regulatory proceedings and other shareholder fraud proceedings are also protected.

If you are filing a complaint that you were subjected to retaliation, discrimination, or harassment under Sarbanes-Oxley, you need to file it in writing with the Department of Labor in the 90-day period immediately after learning that you have been or will be faced with retaliation, harassment, or discrimination for engaging in the protected activity of whistleblowing.

If you prevail in your complaint, you may be entitled to reinstatement at your job, back pay with interest, restoration of seniority, restoration of any sick days, and special damages for the loss of your professional reputation and emotional distress, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs. You may also be entitled to affirmative relief like a letter of apology and formal posting of a decision. If you are asking for special damages, you must ask for them in your first complaint.

OSHA will review what the complaint says to decide whether to investigate. If it decides you were subjected to retaliation, it has to order the employer to provide remedies to you. However, if it decides the claims are not meritorious, it dismisses the action. Either you or the employer is entitled to appeal the OSHA investigation findings and obtain a hearing on the record in front of the Department of Labor’s Office of Administrative Judges.

When OSHA orders that an employee be reinstated immediately based solely on an investigation, the employee is supposed to be immediately reinstated even if there’s an appeal pending of the ruling. To determine a whistleblower case, a formal bench trial is conducted. The parties are allowed to call and cross-examine witnesses. This decision can be appealed to the Administrative Review Board, which has the authority to provide orders for the Secretary of Labor. The Administrative Review Board’s orders can be reviewed by the United States Court of Appeal for the circuit where the violation happened.

Anybody who intends to retaliate and takes an adverse action against a whistleblower — including interfering with his job or employment— for providing to a law enforcement officer truthful information about the commission of a federal offense can be fined or imprisoned up to 10 years, or both. In other words, employers can be personally accountable in criminal proceedings for retaliatory acts.

It can be important to obtain representation from an experienced employment lawyer when you have a dispute with your employer regarding discrimination or other matters connected to being a whistleblower in Texas. Contact us at (214) 528-6500 or via our online intake form.

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