The Wall Street reform act offers strong protection from retaliation to employees who are whistle-blowers, according to Tennessee attorney Cynthia Gibson. The law applies to all corporations, not just Wall Street traders.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act provides extensive protection of whistle-blowers when they report violations of SEC regulations. Employees on foreign soil as well as within the U.S. are protected when they file a good-faith complaint. So are employees of subsidiaries or affiliates of publicly traded companies.
The Dodd-Frank Act specifically prohibits an employer from using an arbitration agreement to resolve retaliation complaints.
The financial rewards provide an incentive for an employee to go straight to the SEC with complaints, rather than addressing them with the employer first. Attorney Gibson suggests that corporations may want to offer monetary incentives to employees for reporting SEC violations internally. If the incentives are high enough, the problem may be kept in house to be addressed without legal sanctions.
The Dodd-Frank Act also calls for increased diversity in recruiting and hiring, within federal agencies. They are required to create a division to focus on diversity in hiring. Attorney Gibson suggests that this expectation of diversity in staffing and hiring will be extended to federal contractors. Employers will be expected to produce evidence of diversity among employees, or to have an aggressive recruiting program in place to address diversity issues, particularly relating to the employment of women and minorities.
Other aspects of the Wall Street Reform law are more widely known, including the “say on pay” provisions that require publicly traded companies to hold non-binding votes by shareholders on executive compensation. These votes must include the names of executive officers and their salary. Held at least once every three years, some votes are required as often as once per year. Any severance package approved as part of a merger or acquisition must be voted on by shareholders.
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