[Ed. Note: We thank our colleague Richard D. Tuschman for this post, which was originally published on EBG’s Florida Employment & Immigration Law Blog]

An employee claiming Whistleblower protection under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act must have actually believed that his company’s conduct was illegal in order to state a claim under the Act, according to a recent decision by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Gale v. U.S. Department of Labor, Case No. 08-14232 11th Cir. June 25, 2010) (pdf).

The case arose when Michael Gale was terminated from his employment at World Financial Group (“WFG”). Gale filed a Whistleblower complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which enforces the SOX Whistleblower provisions. Gale alleged that he was terminated because he opposed decisions made by company officers relating to waste and misuse of corporate funds, and because he raised concerns regarding the alleged violation of SEC rules and regulations.

Under SOX, a publicly traded company and its officers are prohibited from discharging an employee for providing information to a supervisory authority about conduct that the employee “reasonably believes” constitutes a violation of federal laws against mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, securities fraud, any SEC rule or regulation, or any provision of federal law relating to fraud against shareholders. 18 U.S.C. § 1514A(a)(1). 


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