Employees who work for publicly traded companies or companies that are required to file certain reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are protected from retaliation for reporting alleged violations of mail, wire, bank or securities fraud; violations of rules or regulations of SEC; or federal laws relating to fraud against shareholders.
A company is covered by Section 806 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 if it has a class of securities registered under Section 12 of the Securities Exchange Act, or is required to file reports under Section 15(d) of the Act. Its contractors, subcontractors, or agents may also be covered.
If an employer is covered under the Act, it may not discharge or in any manner retaliate against an employee because he or she:
- provided information
- caused information to be provided, or
- assisted in an investigation by
1. a federal regulatory or law enforcement agency
2. a member or committee of Congress, or
3. an internal investigation by the company relating to an alleged violation of mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, securities fraud, or violating SEC rules or regulations or federal laws relating to fraud against shareholders.
In addition, an employer may not discharge or in any manner retaliate against an employee because he or she filed, caused to be filed, participated in or assisted in a proceeding under one of these laws or regulations.
If an employer takes retaliatory action against an employee because he or she engaged in any of these protected activities, the employee can file a complaint with OSHA.
Your employer may be found to have violated one of these statutes if your protected activity was a motivating factor in its decision to take an unfavorable personnel action against you, such as:
- Firing or laying off
- Denying overtime or promotion
- Denying benefits
- Failing to hire or rehire
- Reassignment affecting promotion prospects
- Reducing pay or hours
Complaints must be filed in writing within 90 days after an alleged violation of the Act occurs (that is, when the complainant becomes aware of the retaliatory action) and must include the following information:
- The name, address and phone number(s) of the person filing the complaint, or on whose behalf the complaint is being filed, must be included.
- The names and addresses of the company(s) and person(s) who are alleged to have violated the Act (who the complaint is being filed against).
- Sufficient detail to allege the four elements of a prima facie violation:
- The employee engaged in a protected activity or conduct;
- The employer or named person knew or suspected, actually or constructively, that the employee engaged in the protected activity;
- The employee suffered an unfavorable personnel action; and
- The circumstances were sufficient to raise the inference that the protected activity was a contributing factor in the unfavorable action.