The recent Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act amended portions of the employee whistleblower protections contained in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). On November 3, the Department of Labor issued interim final regulations intended to amend its existing SOX enforcement procedures.
The major change to SOX involves an extension in the maximum administrative filing period from 90 to 180 days. Dodd-Frank also guarantees complaining whistleblowers the right to a jury trial in federal court if DOL does not act on the complaint within 180 days of filing. The new law prohibits mandatory arbitration agreements with employees from acting as an effective waiver of whistleblower rights under SOX, and makes clear that affiliates and subsidiaries of covered publically-traded companies are also subject to SOX's whistleblower protections.
OSHA handles SOX complaints for DOL. The interim final rules change the requirement for a written administrative retaliation charge, to now allow oral complaints to the agency to suffice. Third parties can file claims on behalf of whistleblowers, and the requirement for a specific statement of facts supporting the complaint has been removed.
Although the interim rules take immediate effect, OSHA is accepting comments for 60 days before issuing final changes to the SOX regulations.