This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case involving whistleblower retaliation. The ruling in that case is highly anticipated because it will determine whether a whistleblower who alleges that their employer retaliated against them must provide evidence that the retaliation was intentional.
The laws in question are the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the Dodd-Frank Act). Specifically, at question are the whistleblower protections provided.
The case being considered by the court
The case that made it to the high court involves a broker-dealer who worked for UBS Securities. He claims the company terminated him after he reported alleged fraud by colleagues whom he says tried to skew his analytic findings. The company said he was laid off as part of reductions in staff. He says he was targeted for layoff.
His former employer also claims he isn’t protected under Dodd-Frank because he reported the alleged wrongdoing to his supervisors rather than the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). A jury initially awarded him close to $1 million in damages and back pay. An appeals court, however, determined he has to prove that the retaliation by his employer was intentional.
Based on their questioning during the case, it’s hard to know how the Supreme Court justices will eventually rule. Their opinions don’t seem to be divided in the way these particular justices have been on higher-profile cases.
Different laws apply to different kinds of employer wrongdoing. Both the SOX Act and the Dodd-Frank Act are considered key corporate reform measures taken in response to major financial scandals.
What does this mean for other whistleblowers who have faced negative employment actions?
If these actions, like including someone in a layoff, are taken soon after an employee has reported alleged wrongdoing, it’s only natural that an employee would consider it retaliation. Proving it can be a different matter, however.
It’s important for those who report wrongdoing by their employer – regardless of the circumstances – to seek legal guidance before they take any steps. This can help protect your rights. If you believe you’ve already suffered retaliation, it’s wise to get that guidance as soon as possible.