Federal regulators published a final rule Friday amending the whistleblower procedures for handling retaliation complaints filed under the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act of 2002, part of the government’s ongoing efforts to beef up protections and incentives for whistleblowers.
“Silencing workers who try to do the right thing is unacceptable,” said Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which enforces the whistleblower provisions of the SOX Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees in numerous industries. “This final rule safeguards investors by protecting whistleblowers who shine a light on illegal or fraudulent conduct that otherwise may go uncorrected.”
The SOX Act protects employees who report fraud and securities violations that can harm investors in publicly traded companies. Ushered in on the heels of giant corporate and accounting scandals, including Enron and Worldcom, the Sox Act introduced a number of major changes to the regulations governing finance and corporate management.
SOX prohibits publicly traded companies, nationally recognized statistical (credit) ratings organizations, and other companies from retaliating against any employee who provides information to company authorities or government officials about conduct he or she believes to be in violation of federal mail, wire, bank or securities fraud statutes, SEC rules, or any provision of federal law relating to fraud against shareholders.
Any worker who properly reports fraud and experiences a backlash for exercising his or her rights under the SOX Act can file a complaint with OSHA. Under the amended SOX Act rules, workers now have a 180-day time limit to report alleged retaliation to OSHA authorities. The old rule gave workers 90 days.
OSHA’s final rule for the SOX Act procedures replaces the interim final rule implemented by the Labor Department in Nov. 2011 at the direction of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.