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Understanding whistleblower protections under Sarbanes-Oxley

The federal Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed in 2002 and has come to be known as SOX in business environments. SOX addresses fraudulent financial activity in publicly traded companies and provides some specific protection for those who report such activity.

SOX protections extend to employees of publicly traded companies. They also cover contractors and subcontractors who are working with or for such companies as well as agencies of those companies. The type of reporting protected under SOX is fairly broad. You might be protected whether you make a report to a federal agency or to a law enforcement agency. Reporting to your supervisor or through internal compliance channels is also protected.

If you report possible cases of fraudulent activity within a publicly traded company where you work, SOX protects you against retaliation by your employer. That means you can't be fired for making a good-faith report of a possible fraud issue. You also can't be demoted, blacklisted or discriminated against in any way because you made that report.

It's important to note that you are not completely protected from termination or other action simply because you made a report. If you make a report and then you simply don't do your job, you can be let go for not performing your job. However, if you feel you are being discriminated against in any way because you reported fraud, then you might have a legal case against your employer.

Note that SOX complaints do come with a statute of limitations. You have 90 days from the date you learned you might have been discriminated against or harassed because of your report to file a claim. If you think you might want to file a claim, consider speaking with an employment law professional about your options.

Source: National Whistleblower Center, "Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) FAQ," accessed July 22, 2016

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