On March 5, the U.S. Department of Labor gave its Final Rule in a case dealing with the types of procedures that govern the handling of retaliation complaints under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). The Final Rule indicates that all employees are allowed to submit both written and oral complaints to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Additionally, the Department of Labor’s Final Rule allows for conditional orders of “economic reinstatement” in which an employer must provide full benefits and pay until administrative adjudication and any ongoing appeals are finished.
The portion of SOX under analysis in this case was Section 806 of the bill. Under this provision, employees of public companies receive protection against retaliation from their employers when they alert government agencies to fraud or any other violations of federal securities laws. Additionally, under 806(b), people who claim they were retaliated against have the right to seek back pay, attorney’s fees and reinstatement to their position in litigation.
The most controversial part of this Final Rule was the decision that both oral and written complaints are allowed under section 806. Some groups argued that section 806 only covered written complaints, and that all such complaints must include a full statement of acts that the complainant alleges to be violations of SOX. Critics of the decision say that the decision to include oral complaints swings SOX too much in favor of complainants, when the law was intended to be more neutral.
However, the decision from the Department of Labor is clearly a victory for workers’ rights. It should now be even more difficult for companies to retaliate against employees who do the right thing and blow the whistle.
If you believe you have been the victim of employer retaliation, contact the knowledgeable Dallas attorney at Whistleblower Law for Managers