What Federal laws protect whistleblowers who report corporate fraud?

In 2002, Congress passed the historic Sarbanes-Oxley Act which protects employees of publicly traded companies who report violations of Securities and Exchange Commission regulations or any provision of federal law relating to fraud against the shareholders.

Who is protected?

Employees of publicly traded companies and contractors, subcontractors, and agencies of publicly traded companies.

What is “protected activity?”

The Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower law broadly defines protected activity to include reports made to federal regulatory and law enforcement agencies, Congress, an employee’s supervisor, internal corporate investigators. The law also protects employees who participate or testify in SEC regulatory proceedings or other federal proceedings related to fraud against shareholders.

What is illegal discrimination?

Adverse changes to the whistleblowers terms and conditions of employment are prohibited. This includes a wide range of actions from reprimands to termination and blacklisting.

Where should complaints be filed?

U.S. Department of Labor
Office of the Assistant Secretary
Occupational Safety and Health Administration – Room: S2315
200 Constitution Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20210
(202) 693-2000

What is the statute of limitations?

A complaint filed under the SOX whistleblower law must be filed with the Department of Labor in writing within 90 days of the time an employee learns that he or she will be, or has been, subjected to discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

What remedies are available to employees under the Sarbanes Oxley whistleblower law?

Employees who prevail are entitled to

• Reinstatement
• Backpay with interest
• a complete “make whole” remedy (including restoration of seniority/sick leave, etc)
• “Special Damages” (for emotional distress and loss of professional reputation)*
• Attorneys’ fees and costs
• “Affirmative Relief” (such as requiring a letter of apology and formal posting of the decision)

*If an employee is seeking “special damages,” that relief should be requested in their initial complaint.

Do other laws protect corporate whistleblowers?

Concepts and Procedures in Whistleblower LawMany other federal and state laws have been enacted laws to protect whistleblowers. The National Whistleblower Center has produced several publications which outline these laws, some of which are offered as free downloads for whistleblowers and their advocates. For more information, visit the Sarbanes Oxley Whistleblower page on National Whistleblower Center’s FAQ page.


Also, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration operates an informative site for whistleblowers here.