PDA and Young: Pregnancy Discrimination Law to Break from Its Infancy

On the heels of the Hobby Lobby decision in late June, the Supreme Court has signaled that women’s health issues in the workplace will continue to be a central issue by granting a petition for certiorari in Young v. United Parcel Service on July 1, 2014.  In Young, the Court will examine whether the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”), which provides that pregnant women “shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes…as other persons…similar in their ability or inability to work,” requires employers to provide work accommodations to pregnant women to the same extent they provide them to other disabled workers.  The Court’s review of Young comes at a time when pregnancy discrimination laws are gaining more attention and more traction, and litigation in this area is increasing.

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SEC Charges Hedge Fund Adviser with Whistleblower Retaliation under Dodd-Frank

On June 16, 2014, the SEC issued its first-ever charge of whistleblower retaliation under section 922 of the Dodd-Frank Act, charging a hedge fund advisor and its owner with “engaging in prohibited principal transactions and then retaliating against the employee who reported the trading activity to the SEC.” Read More

U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission Issues First Whistleblower Award

On Monday, May 19, 2014, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) issued its first award to a whistleblower under its Dodd-Frank bounty program.

The Commission will pay $240,000 to an unidentified whistleblower who “voluntarily provided original information that caused the Commission to launch an investigation that led to an enforcement action” in which the judgment and sanctions exceeded $1 million. The heavily redacted award determination on the CFTC’s website does not reveal the name of the implicated company, the nature of the wrongdoing involved, the percentage of bounty the whistleblower received (which is required to be between 10 and 30 percent pursuant to the statute), or the factors considered in determining the percentage of the bounty.

Prior to this first grant of an award to a whistleblower under the CFTC’s Dodd-Frank bounty program, there were 25 denials of award claims. The reasons for the denials primarily fell into one or more of several categories:

  1. the individuals provided information before the passage of Dodd-Frank;
  2. they did not file a form TCR as required by the regulations;
  3. they did not provide information “voluntarily” but rather in response to a Commission request; and/or
  4. the information did not cause the Commission to open or expand an investigation or significantly contribute to a success of a Commission matter.

Time will tell whether this first award will have any effect on the number of whistleblowers who report to the CFTC or the quality of information the Commission receives.

San Francisco Employers Beware: New Extensive Restrictions on Use of Criminal Background Information

The use of criminal background checks when hiring employees has become even more limited in San Francisco. On August 13, 2014, the recently passed Fair Chance Ordinance (Ordinance) becomes operative requiring employers doing business in San Francisco and employing 20 or more workers, regardless of location, to limit the use of an applicant’s criminal history. Read More

Babysitters at the Gate: The Supreme Court’s Radical Expansion of SOX’s Whistleblower Protections

Yesterday, in Lawson v. FMR LLC, a divided U.S. Supreme Court decided its first case addressing the whistleblower protections of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX).  The question before the Court: do those protections extend only to the employees of public companies, or do they also reach the employees of contractors and subcontractors of public companies?  You can see our prior posts on the case here (June 19, 2012), here (October 8, 2013), here (January 7, 2014), and here (January 28, 2014). Read More

Complaint about Foreign Tax Violations Sunk Under SOX

On February 12, 2014, the Fifth Circuit in Villanueva v. U.S. Department of Labor held that an employee did not engage in protected activity under SOX when he reported alleged violations of Columbian tax laws to U.S. executives at his employer. Read More

Bon Voyage! Dodd Frank Whistleblower Claim Shipped to Arbitration

In Murray v. UBS Securities, LLC, Judge Failla in the Southern District of New York compelled arbitration of a Dodd-Frank whistleblower retaliation claim, holding that nothing in the anti-retaliation provision, 15 U.S.C. 78u-6(h), precludes the arbitration of these claims. Read More

For Whom the Whistle Tolls in 2014

Momentum for the SEC’s Dodd Frank whistleblower program is growing, and 2014 can be expected to bring continued expansion of the program and the number and types of whistleblower actions initiated by the SEC.  The SEC’s annual report to Congress reported that 3,238 whistleblower tips were received in 2013, up almost 10% from 2012, and awards to whistleblowers who provide information to the SEC are increasing as more substantive tips are received. Read More

Freedom of Watercooler Speech? NLRB Invalidates Employer’s No-Gossip Policy

Do mean-spirited watercooler talk, negative gossip, and backbiting have an effect on employee morale that companies would like prevent if they could? In many instances, probably yes. Why don’t employers create “no gossip” policies aimed at improving morale in the workplace? One company did implement such a policy and it didn’t work out so well. Read More

Moving Right Along: The Office of Whistleblower Issues Its 2013 Annual Report

The SEC released its Fiscal Year 2013 Annual Report   (the “Report”) to Congress on the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Program on  November 15, 2013.  The Report analyzes the tips received over the last twelve months by the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower (“OWB”) and provides additional information about the whistleblower award evaluation process. Read More