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Primer on Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Retaliation Claims

Primer on Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Retaliation Claims

Primer on Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Retaliation Claims

The Dodd-Frank Act added Section 21F to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which provides, inter alia, a private cause of action for employees of public companies who have been retaliated against by their employers for blowing the whistle on possible securities-law violations. 15 U.S.C. § 78u—6(h)(1)(A); 18 U.S.C. § 1514A; see also Rhinehimer v. U.S. Bancorp Investments, Inc., 787 F.3d 797, 805 (6th Cir. 2015); Securities Whistleblower Incentives and Protections, 76 Fed. Reg. 34300-01, 2011 WL 2293084, at *34304 (2011).
To prevail on a Dodd-Frank whistleblower retaliation claim, a plaintiff must prove that (1) she engaged in protected activity; (2) the employer knew or suspected, either actually or constructively, that she engaged in the protected activity; (3) she suffered an unfavorable personnel or employment action; and (4) the protected activity was a contributing factor in the unfavorable action. Riddle v. First Tenn. Bank, Nat’l Assoc., 497 Fed. App’x 588, 594 (6th Cir. 2012).
A plaintiff who prevails on a Dodd-Frank whistleblower retaliation claim is entitled to statutory relief that includes “2 times the amount of back pay . . . with interest” and “compensation for litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.” 15 U.S.C. § 78u—6(h)(1)(C).
The minimum statute of limitations and statute of repose periods applicable to a Dodd-Frank whistleblower retaliation claim are six and ten years respectively. 15 U.S.C. § 78u-6(h)(1)(B)(iii). See Digital Realty Trust v. Somers, 138 S. Ct. 767  (2018) (the applicable statute of limitation is “at least six years” from the date of the violation).  In addition, “employers may not require employees to waive or limit their anti-retaliation rights under Section 21F.” See Securities Whistleblower Incentives and Protections, 76 Fed. Reg. at 34304.