The retaliation provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) cover whistleblowers who work for publicly traded companies that have reported fraud. It is important to note that the law does not only cover fraud related to stock prices but can cover many other types of fraud.
The retaliation provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley provide a wide range of potential protection by covering all types of fraud involving mail or wire fraud (using an internet connection or phone line). A wide variety of circumstances can qualify as mail or wire fraud. For example, reporting a manager who encourages employees to create fake accounts in company systems to make sure his numbers are on target could qualify as protected activity under Sarbanes-Oxley. Another example would be an employee who reports time sheet fraud by other employees to his manager if those time sheets are being sent for payment via the internet or mail.
In order to have potential protection under Sarbanes-Oxley an employee must:
- work for a U.S. publicly traded company;
- report fraud occurring at that company either by mail or through the internet or violations of securities laws enforced by the Securities and Exchange Commission; and
- provide information about the fraud to:
- a person with supervisory authority over the employee (or such other person working for the employer who has the authority to investigate, discover, or terminate misconduct)
- a member of Congress or any committee of Congress; OR
- a Federal regulatory or law enforcement agency
Employees only have 180 days to file their claims, so it is imperative that employees who have been terminated due to reporting fraud contact a lawyer immediately.
Under Sarbanes-Oxley, an employee can obtain back pay, front pay, compensatory damages including emotional distress, and attorneys' fees.
Sarbanes-Oxley is different from most employment statutes because it has a more relaxed standard for proving retaliation. Most statutes require that the employee has to prove that 51% of the reason for the termination was retaliation or discrimination known as but-for causation. Sarbanes-Oxley requires only that the employee prove that retaliation was a contributing factor in the termination. An employee can succeed in Sarbanes-Oxley cases by proving that, for instance, 10% of the cause of termination is retaliation.