Congress enacted the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) in 2002 to strengthen federal securities laws following the Enron, WorldCom, and Global Crossing financial scandals. SOX protects whistleblowers that provide information about federal securities violations and shareholder fraud. For instance, employers cannot punish employees that report SOX violations. They also can’t discipline employees that participate in SOX proceedings. If your employer harmed you for exposing a SOX violation, you need to contact an Atlanta SOX whistleblower lawyer.
You may be eligible to receive a large whistleblower reward. For instance, if you provide information to the SEC that helps them enforce sanctions exceeding $1M against your employer, you may receive anywhere from 10-30% of the total penalties that the SEC recovers.
Our Atlanta employment dispute lawyers have successfully helped many SOX whistleblowers. Call us today at (404) 419-6674. Also, you may fill-out our online form to schedule a free case review.
Is My Employer Covered by SOX?
SOX covers companies that have a class of securities registered under Section 12 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. It also covers companies that are required to file reports under Section 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including any subsidiaries or affiliates whose financial information is included in their consolidated financial statements. It even covers employees of nationally recognized statistical ratings organizations. (18 U.S.C. § 1514A).
Protected SOX Whistleblowing Activities
An employee engages in protected SOX activities when they:
- provide information
- cause information to be provided, or
- assist in an investigation by:
- a federal regulatory or law enforcement agency
- A member or committee of Congress
- An internal investigation by the company relating to alleged mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, securities fraud, violations of SEC rules and regulations, or violations of Federal law relating to fraud against shareholders.
If an employer retaliates against an employee for engaging in those protected SOX activities, the emplyoee can file a complaint with OSHA. We recommend that you hire an Atlanta SOX whistleblower lawyer before filing an OSHA complaint.
What Types Of Adverse Actions Does SOX Prohibit?
SOX prohibits any of the following types of adverse actions:
- Firing or laying off
- Denying overtime or promotion
- Denying benefits
- Failing to hire or rehire
- Making threats
- Reassignment affecting prospects for promotion
- Reducing pay or hours
What Happens Once I File A SOX Whistleblower Complaint?
OSHA will notify your employer once you file your complaint. Your employer may:
- Submit a written response
- Meet with the OSHA investigator
- Present statements from witnesses
- Present legal and factual arguments
Your employer must file a response within 20 days after it receives your complaint.
Next, OSHA will determine whether your employer unlawfully punished you.
If OSHA rules in your favor, it will issue an order. That order may give you the following relief:
- back pay;
- cost reimbursement; and,
- attorney’s fees
The order is effective within 30 days. If your employer violates that order, you should contact an Atlanta SOX whistleblower lawyer.
Will a Judge Review OSHA’s Decision?
Maybe. If your employer obeys OSHA’s decision, your case is closed. However, your employer may appeal OSHA’s decision. Also, you may appeal OSHA’s decision if they rule against you.
If you or your employer appeal OSHA’s decision, your case will be assigned to an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). The ALJ will make their own conclusions. They aren’t bound by OSHA’s findings.
Once an ALJ is assigned to your case, you have the opportunity to conduct discovery (e.g. depositions, document requests, and interrogatories). Then, you will have the chance to proceed to a hearing.
At the hearing, you have the burden of proof. Thus, you must prove that your SOX activities contributed to the adverse actions you’ve alleged.
At the end of the hearing, the ALJ will determine if your employer violated the SOX Act. If the ALJ rules in your favor, they may order relief. For instance, they may reinstate you. Additionally, they may award you monetary damages, such as back pay with interest. Finally, they’ll order your employer to reimburse your costs and attorney’s fees. Reinstatement orders are immediately effective.
If the ALJ rules that your employer didn’t violate the SOX act, they will dismiss your complaint.
Do I have the Right to Appeal the ALJ’s Decision?
Yes. Your employer may appeal it, as well. Appeals must be filed with the DOL’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) within 10 business days. The ALJ’s decision is final if no one appeals it.
The ARB will review the ALJ’s factual findings. However, it doesn’t conduct a new hearing. Also, the ARB’s final order isn’t appealable. However, if you disagree with the ARB’s order, you can file a lawsuit in federal court. Then, the case starts anew.
Our Atlanta SOX Whistleblower Lawyers Can Help You
If your employer punished you for exposing SOX violations, you should immediately contact an Atlanta SOX whistleblower lawyer. Our Atlanta employment lawyers will help you win justice. Just give us a call. We’re here to help you.