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OSHA orders US Bank in Seattle to pay back wages, reinstate former manager terminated in violation of SOX whistleblower provisions

OSHA has ordered US Bank in Seattle to reinstate a former bank manager who was fired in retaliation for filing an internal report alleging securities and bank fraud by company employees, finding the bank fired the employee in violation of the whistleblower protection provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The former bank manager had filed a report, in August 2007, claiming that income amounts on loan applications were being altered by bank employees, loans were not being paid off when refinanced, and checking accounts and credit cards were being opened for customers who did not request such accounts. OSHA’s investigation revealed that the reasons offered by US Bank for the termination of the complainant were pretextual and that allegations of fraud were a contributing factor in the employer’s adverse action against the employee.

“Sarbanes-Oxley provides protection to workers who report alleged violations of mail, wire, bank or securities fraud; violations of rules or regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission; or federal laws relating to fraud against shareholders,” said Richard Terrill, OSHA regional administrator in Seattle. Terrill emphasized that OSHA issues findings on alleged violations of the SOX whistleblower provisions, but does not determine whether the alleged fraud actually occurred.

In addition to preliminary reinstatement, OSHA is ordering US Bank to expunge employment records of the termination, to post an OSHA fact sheet and notice to employees, and to provide SOX whistleblower provision training for its Renton, Wash., branch employees. OSHA is also ordering the payment of back wages to the complainant. OSHA’s findings and order become the final order of the Secretary of Labor unless they are appealed within 30 days.