The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 is also known officially as the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act. We in the employment rights law field, however, call it “Sarbanes-Oxley” or simply “SOX.”
This is a federal law that enhances the standards for publicly held companies, management and public accounting firms. Those were enacted in response to some of the financial disasters surrounding Enron, Tyco International, Adelphia and AT&T Worldcom. These scandals cost regular people billions of dollars. The scandals shook the confidence in the nation’s financial structures and securities markets.
The Act is a long one, but it comes down to this: the purpose of the whistleblower protection of SOX is to prohibit retaliation by certain employers, entities with a “class” of securities (under Section 12 of the Securities Exchange Act) and certain other companies, as well as any officer, director or other people associated with such companies, from retaliating against an employee who engages in certain protected conduct under the act.
Thus, retaliatory discharge, demotion, suspension, workplace harassment (hostile, intimidating or abusive conduct), or any other “manner” of discrimination is prohibited under Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) on the basis of any “lawful act” done by the employee who becomes a whistleblower.
Lawful acts can include providing information or otherwise assisting in an investigation regarding any conduct that the employee reasonably believes constitutes a violation of SOX or any other rule or regulation of the Security Exchange Commission, or of any other provision of federal law relating to fraud against shareholders.
There are other protected acts that can render someone a Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower, as well, including the filing of claims and actions concerning violations of SOX or retaliation against workers protected by SOX.
The damages in an action under SOX can include reinstatement, equitable back pay, compensation for special damages suffered as a result of the discrimination, as well as reasonable attorneys’ fees.
In New Jersey, we have very strong state laws against whistleblower retaliation that essentially subsume and include the remedies of SOX, but where appropriate, an action under SOX is sometimes a good way to protect workers’ rights.
The Mount Laurel, New Jersey, employment attorneys of Costello & Mains, LLC, understand the complex workings of Sarbanes-Oxley and are familiar with the federal court regime for litigating these claims and maximizing recovery for whistleblowers who are retaliated against.