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Whistleblowers played a significant role in revealing and disrupting corporate malfeasance at the beginning of the 21st century, as scandals at corporations such as Enron and WorldCom came to public light through the efforts of whistleblowing employees. Subsequently, Congress recognized the importance of whistleblowing and included strong and unprecedented anti-retaliation protection for corporate employees as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (the Act), the mammoth congressional reaction to these corporate scandals.
Despite Sarbanes-Oxley’s pro-whistleblower provisions and a few early employee victories, however, administrative decisions over the first three years of the Act’s life failed to fulfill these expectations that a strong anti-retaliation provision would protect whistleblowers. During this time, 491 employees filed Sarbanes- Oxley complaints with OSHA. OSHA resolved 361 of these cases and found for employees only 13 times, a win rate of 3.6 percent. On appeal from 93 OSHA decisions, Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) in the Department of Labor found in favor of six employees, a win rate of 6.5 percent.