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SEC CLARIFIES WHISTLE BLOWER PROTECTIONS AGAINST EMPLOYER RETALIATIONS

“The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued an interpretive rule clarifying that whistleblowers are protected by retaliation by employers even if they have not reported their concerns to the SEC first.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 included a section offering incentives and protections to individuals who report possible violations of the federal securities laws, including protections against employer retaliation. The SEC issued rules in 2011 spelling out how the whistleblower protections would work, but there was some ambiguity when the SEC specified how whistleblowers should report a tip to the SEC in order to qualify for a whistleblower award, and those who would be protected from employer retaliation.

In particular, questions arose over whether an employee who first reported the matter internally to their employer, such as a compliance department, would be protected from retaliation from that same employer, or only those who reported directly to the SEC.

“Our interpretation best comports with our overall goals in implementing the whistleblower program,” said the SEC in the rule it issued last week. “Specifically, by providing employment retaliation protections for individuals who report internally first to a supervisor, compliance official, or other person working for the company that has authority to investigate, discover, or terminate misconduct, our interpretive rule avoids a two-tiered structure of employment retaliation protection that might discourage some individuals from first reporting internally in appropriate circumstances and, thus, jeopardize the investor-protection and law-enforcement benefits that can result from internal reporting. Under our interpretation, an individual who reports internally and suffers employment retaliation will be no less protected than an individual who comes immediately to the Commission. Providing equivalent employment retaliation protection for both situations removes a potentially serious disincentive to internal reporting by employees in appropriate circumstances. A contrary interpretation would undermine the other incentives that were put in place through the Commission’s whistleblower rules in order to encourage internal reporting.”

The Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower protection advocacy organization, and Labaton Sucharow LLP, a law firm that specializes in securities class-action lawsuits, wrote a letter Tuesday to SEC chair Mary Jo White thanking her for the interpretive rule, but also asked for further protections.

They pointed out that the new rule clarifies that any disclosure protected by the Sarbanes Oxley Act is shielded from retaliation under its Whistleblower Program. In effect, according to them, protection extends to disclosures within a corporation, to other law enforcement audiences, or to the public. Protection also extends to any violation of federal law, not just those enforced by the SEC. However, they cautioned that the SEC should take additional measures to address the remaining vulnerabilities they identified in a petition last summer to the SEC.

“Our July 2014 petition emphasized that new and creative forms of corporate prior restraint are preventing disclosures from happening at all, making academic the issue of subsequent retaliation,” wrote GAP legal director Tom Devine and Labaton Sucharow partner Jordan Thomas. “Merely presenting employees with nondisclosure agreements creates a chilling effect, and there are no rights for refusing to agree—only for violating one with protected speech. Further, corporations regularly file breach of contract lawsuits, theft of corporate records actions, and other litigation attacks outside the employment context. Realistically, to prevent a chilling effect on the flow of evidence necessary for SEC oversight, it is necessary to go beyond interpretations that restrict harassment of incumbent employees.” ”

Article posted by Accounting Today. Original article at http://www.accountingtoday.com/news/audit-accounting/sec-clarifies-whistleblower-protections-employer-retaliation-75468-1.html

TSA BACKGROUND CHECKS PASS 73 PEOPLE WITH POSSIBLE TERRORIST TIES

” Background checks by the Transportation Security Administration cleared 73 people for access to secure airport areas even though their names were on a federal database of possible terrorists, a senior official told a Senate committee Tuesday.

The latest security lapse came to light as John Roth, the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security, delivered a scathing report on problems and blunders at the long-troubled agency.

They include inadequate baggage screening, hiring of convicted criminals, questionable spending, and narcotics smuggling and human trafficking by TSA employees.

“We remain deeply concerned about [the TSA’s] ability to execute its important mission,” Roth told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The hearing was held a week after Jeh Johnson, secretary of Homeland Security, reassigned the acting administrator of the TSA in the wake of reports that auditors from Roth’s office had successfully slipped mock explosives and weapons past TSA checkpoints 67 out of 70 times.

The White House has nominated Peter V. Neffenger, vice commandant of the Coast Guard, to take the helm of the TSA. Neffenger is expected to win approval from the Senate committee after a confirmation hearing Wednesday.

In the latest case, Roth said, his investigators had found the names of 73 airport workers “with possible terrorism-related information” in a classified federal database that the TSA could not normally access.

“TSA acknowledged that these individuals were cleared for access to secure airport areas despite representing a potential security threat,” Roth testified.

Roth said the risk was discovered after he asked the National Counterterrorism Center to check more than 900,000 active aviation workers against the classified intelligence database called the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE. It contains confirmed and unconfirmed information about people with potential terrorist links.

The search found 73 matches of people cleared for access to secure areas. Investigators immediately gave the TSA the names that raised concerns, Roth said. He did not say whether they included any TSA employees, when the discovery was made, or whether any of the people posed an actual threat.

The names of people who are hired by airlines and airport vendors are normally checked against a more narrow, unclassified database that is maintained by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center.

Last year, then-TSA head John Pistole sent a letter to the FBI asking that TSA background checks also include a search of the bigger, more inclusive database, Roth said. But the FBI and the intelligence community have not acted, he said.

“I can’t imagine the FBI would not have moved on this with the utmost haste,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said at the hearing. “The bureaucracy can’t hold this up.”

The fact that 73 workers with potential links to terrorism had access to the secure areas of airports “really does give you pause,” Ayotte said, “because it really only takes one.”

Roth also repeatedly criticized the TSA’s use of PreCheck, which allows expedited screening of vetted passengers. He said the TSA allows expedited screening of nearly half the flying public, often by randomly pulling people out of line.

In one case, he said, a convicted felon who was “a former member of a domestic terrorist group” was granted expedited screening even though the traveler was “sufficiently notorious” that a TSA screener recognized him.

The screener “notified his supervisor, who directed him to take no further action and allow the traveler to proceed through the PreCheck lane,” Rush said. He did not identify the passenger. ”

 

 

Originally posted by The Los Angeles Times. Article can be found at http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-tsa-security-lapse-20150609-story.html

THE IMPORTANCE OF A WORKPLACE VIOLENCE POLICY

“As CBS 2′s Maurice DuBois reported, workplace violence is becoming an all too common scene — a disgruntled employee, an ex-spouse or a dissatisfied client come backs to settle the score with a gun. Two million people are victims of workplace violence each year, with hundreds killed.

Experts say that number is on the rise.

“If we see bad economic times and you see a lot of layoffs or plants closing, then you’re going to see workplace violence,” said Paul Viollis, a workplace violence prevention specialist. Most people, however, don’t know how to react when faced with such danger.

It happened to City Councilman Charles Barron, D-Brooklyn. A gunman opened fire in the council chambers 10 years ago. “He’s just shooting, and so everybody’s saying, ‘Charles, get down, get down,’” Barron said. “It was the most traumatic moment of my life.” Barron survived because he made it to the nearest exit. But most people don’t chance it and hide behind office furniture, often with dire consequences.

CBS 2 obtained an NYPD video that shows how office furniture is no match for bullets. Shots fired by assault rifles, shotguns and hanguns can pierce desks, filing cabinets and cubicle partitions. “A workplace violence shooting will specifically target one or more people who this person blames for their lot in life,” Viollis said. The profile of a workplace shooter typically includes being male, between the ages of 25 and 45 and a very poor communicator. Viollis said your chance of survival increases dramatically if you have a plan.

“Only about 10 percent of corporations … have a stand-alone, robust workplace violence policy and they proactively train their employees,” he said. The New York State Labor Department, however, offers “on-site safety training” for free. “They look at different safety hazards,” said Eileen Franko, director of safety and health for the Labor Department. Experts agree everyone needs to know exit routes in advance. They suggest companies should come up with a code word or phrase that can alert employees a shooter is on the premises, such as “I’m dealing with Mark Smith.”

If evacuating is not an option, know a remote spot to hide. Once there, the little things can save your life, such as turning the ringer off on your cellphone-, blocking the door with furniture and not sounding the fire alarm — it may send others into the path of the shooter.”

Originally posted by CBS and can be viewed a http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/11/19/seen-at-11-dos-and-donts-when-faced-with-workplace-violence/

WORKPLACE BULLIES AND HOW TO STOP THEM

“If you have ever worked in a team setting before, then chances are you have either worked with, for, or alongside a “workplace bully.”  But what exactly is the difference between a workplace bully and just a mean boss or a difficult coworker?

A workplace bully doesn’t just yell at you for making a mistake, he/she yells at you in front of the rest of your team, whether you made a mistake or not.  A workplace bully doesn’t just pick on you. A workplace bully goes further than that – singling you out, mentally manipulating you, and isolating you from the rest of the group.  A workplace bully doesn’t just make going to work a little worse – a workplace bully makes you dread going into the office everyday and keeps you up in anticipation of the oncoming terror.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, “bullying is a systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction that jeopardizes your health, your career, the job you once loved.” It likens the situation to an abusive spouse, saying that it “is akin to domestic violence at work, where the abuser is on the payroll.”

It identifies three general forms:

(1) verbal abuse

(2) offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating

(3) work interference – sabotage – which prevents work from getting done.

 

And according to the Institute, 35% of the U.S. workforce, or 53.5 million Americans, report being bullied at work.

Here in the U.S., we talk about all sorts of bullying problems – but usually in the context of children.  Lady Gaga has established a foundation to empower victims of bullying, the Born This Way Foundation, and has dedicated her tour bus to the cause as well.  Even the President of the United States has spoken out against bullying. Both rightfully recognize bullying as being traumatic for the victim and often leading to terrible, devastating consequences.  As technology has evolved, so have the bully tactics: cyberbullying continues to be a vexing problem – and one that is only getting worse. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that 85% of kids are affected by cyberbullying today – up from 6 percent in 2000.  Legislators have tried to solve the problem with new laws, but because of our country’s strong founding principle of freedom of speech, that is turning out to be harder than many had expected or hoped.

But all of these efforts by leaders and lawmakers target only child bullies. What about the adult bullies living freely amongst us? These men and women torment and harass their coworkers, but because they are in a workplace, in what is supposed to be an adult situation, there is no principal to run to, no parent to be a disciplinarian. More often than not, the victim is too ashamed to bring attention to the problem, and ends up leaving their job – sometimes voluntarily but not always.

Can anything be done about this problem at the macro level? Or is it up to individual employers to spot and stop this destructive behavior? Does government have a role to play in these scenarios?…”

Click to continue reading http://www.article-3.com/on-workplace-bullying-and-how-to-stop-it-911609

WORKPLACE VIOLENCE RATES ARE HIGHER FOR GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES

“Government employees experienced a rate of nonfatal workplace violence that was more than three times the rate for private-sector employees during 2011, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today.  Local, county, state and federal government employees experienced 18.0 nonfatal violent victimizations in the workplace per 1,000 employees age 16 or older, compared to 5.2 nonfatal violent victimizations per 1,000 private-sector employees.

The higher rate of workplace violence in the public sector was due in part to the high rate of violence against government employees in law enforcement or security. About 56 percent of workplace violence against government employees occurred against law enforcement and security personnel during 2002 through 2011. In both the public and private sectors, law enforcement and security personnel experienced the highest annual average rates of workplace violence.

Excluding law enforcement and security employees, the 2011 rate of workplace violence against government employees was still higher than that against private-sector employees. Government employees reported 8.7 violent victimizations per 1,000 employees, compared to 4.7 violent victimizations per 1,000 employees in the private sector.

Serious violent crime (rape, sexual assault, robbery or aggravated assault) accounted for a larger percentage of workplace violence against private-sector employees (25 percent) than government employees (15 percent) from 2002 to 2011. However, government employees experienced three times more simple assault than those in the private sector.

About 1 in 5 victims of workplace homicide was a government employee in 2011. During that year, the private sector experienced 367 homicides in the workplace, compared to 90 homicides for government employees.

Rates of workplace violence have declined substantially in both the public and private sectors. The annual average rate of violence against government employees declined 82 percent from 1994 to 2011, compared to a 72 percent decline in the private sector.

Among other findings from 2002 to 2011:

  • Although government employees accounted for 16 percent of all employed people age 16 or older, they made up 41 percent of victims of nonfatal workplace violence.
  • Among government employees, males (68 percent) were more likely than females (38 percent) to face a stranger during an incident in the workplace.
  • Government employee s (12 percent) were less likely than private – sector employees (20 percent) to face an offender with a weapon during an incident.
  • Government and private – sector employees were equally likely to be injured due to workplace violence.

Findings in this report on nonfatal violence against government employees in the workplace are based on data from the BJS National Crime Victimization Survey. Findings on workplace homicide are based on…”

Click here to continue reading http://www.corrections.com/news/article/33090-rates-of-workplace-violence-higher-for-government-employees

VIOLENCE IN THE AMERICAN WORKPLACE, A RECENT SURVEY

A new survey reveals some frightening statistics about the prevalence of violence, or intent of violence, in the workplace. A Violence in the American Workplace survey, conducted by AlliedBarton Security Services & David Michaelson and Co., found that 52% of Americans who work outside their homes “have witnessed, heard about or have experienced a violent event or an event that can lead to violence at their workplace.”  According to the study, violence can include open hostility, abusive language or threats and can escalate to significant physical harm to someone by another person.

The survey press release points to the increase in unemployment over the past several years as a reason why these incidents are happening at a high rate and why they may continue to increase.

The survey also found that 28 percent reported that a violent event or one that can lead to violence happened to them at their current place of employment, or they have been personally affected by this type of event.

According to the survey, 29 percent of workers who witnessed, heard about or experienced workplace violence did not report the incident or take other action yet 34% of the 1,030 adults surveyed felt either “somewhat” or “very” concerned for their personal safety at work.

Psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., who works with clients who have encountered workplace violence, commented on the hesitation of some employees to report office violence: “Many are hesitant to notify anyone of these experiences and fears out of concern that the ‘offender’ [will] find out who reported them and retaliate.”

Yet in order to prevent the incident from happening again or escalating into something worse, employees must report it. “Tell someone – HR, your boss, someone in a position of greater authority than you,” Lombardo stresses. “Given that there are about 500 workplace homicides during a year, it is vital that you be proactive.”

The survey found that following a violent incident, almost all employers (94 percent) took some type of action, the most likely type being meeting with employees.

Yet the best way to curb violence is prevention. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration encourages employers to ensure that a workplace violence prevention program is in place.

Lombardo also has advice on preventative actions employers can take to stop violence before it starts. Her suggestions include:

* Stress and anger management training

* Assistance for alcohol and drug abuse

* Increased employee control, as a perceived lack of control can increase a sense of helplessness and violence

* Demonstration of true caring for employees – employees are valued for who they are and what they do