Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Sarbanes-Oxley, OSHA and a Blue Light Special

OSHA is the agency designated by the Secretary of Labor to receive and investigate whistleblowing complaints filed under Sarbanes-Oxley. However, a Houston Chronicle story questions how successful OSHA will be in following up on those complaints. Although the story does not mention it, there is a difference between Sarbanes-Oxley and the retaliation statute under OSHA. The latter gives only OSHA the right to proceed, whereas SOX gives the employee the right to proceed, in court, if the administrative process has not been completed within 180 days of the filing of their charge. It is way too early to be giving OSHA a hard time for its SOX related duties. Although no doubt their time will come.

In a Detroit News story, KMart is showing how SOX might have a different kick. After being besieged with letters for over a 2 year period from a would be whistleblower "tease" using outdated KMart stationary, the company sent a tough letter to 2,700 employees, reminding them of SOX's protections for whistleblowers, but also suggesting that if they were withholding evidence of wrong doing they could be prosecuted for obstruction of justice. Some interesting comments on the nature of whistleblowers as well.

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