OSHA has found Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America Corp. in violation of the whistleblower protection provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act for improperly firing an employee. The bank has been ordered to reinstate and pay the employee approximately $930,000, which includes back wages, interest, compensatory damages and attorney fees. The findings follow an investigation by OSHA's San Francisco Regional Office, which was initiated after receiving a complaint from the Los Angeles-area employee. The employee originally worked for Countrywide Financial Corp., which merged with Bank of America in July 2008. The employee led internal investigations that revealed widespread and pervasive wire, mail, and bank fraud involving Countrywide employees. The employee alleged that those who attempted to report fraud to Countrywide's Employee Relations Department suffered persistent retaliation. The employee was fired shortly after the merger. Both the complainant and Bank of America can appeal the monetary damages to the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges within 30 days of receiving the findings.
"It's clear from our investigation that Bank of America used illegal retaliatory tactics against this employee. This employee showed great courage reporting potential fraud and standing up for the rights of other employees to do the same. Whistleblowers play a vital role in ensuring the integrity of our financial system, as well as the safety of our food, air, water, workplaces and transportation systems," said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "This case highlights the importance of defending employees against retaliation when they try to protect the public from the consequences of an employer's illegal activities."
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