Do SEC whistleblowers have legal protection from retaliation?

To enforce the securities laws of the U.S., the Securities and Exchange Commission often relies on tips from whistleblowers.

Fortunately, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act gives whistleblowers wide-sweeping protections against retaliation, provided they qualify under the law.

Protected activities and prohibited retaliation

Under Dodd-Frank, whistleblowers have legal protection from retaliation for proffering information they reasonably believe implicates their employers in an unlawful scheme. For purposes of the law, retaliation is any adverse employment action, including termination of employment, harassment, discrimination and demotion.

A timely written complaint

To qualify for retaliation protection under federal law, whistleblowers must submit an in-writing complaint to the SEC before the retaliation occurs.  If your employer takes adverse employment action against you before you notify the SEC of a securities violation, you may not qualify for legal protections.

Your private right of action

Arguably, the most significant part of Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower protections is the private right of action it gives to whistleblowers. If your employer retaliates against you because of your SEC tip, you may be able to file suit in federal court for damages. Permissible damages are extensive, as you can pursue double back pay, reinstatement and legal costs.

Because taking advantage of whistleblower protection is often a time-sensitive matter, you do not want to delay. Ultimately, if you comply with strict time frames, you may either protect your career or put it back together.