The answer to this question is unsettled right now, but a judge in New Jersey recently held that employers are prohibited by the Dodd-Frank consumer protection law from retaliating against employees who make these complaints.
In Khazin v. TD Ameritrade, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31142 (D.N.J. March 11, 2014), the court allowed the case of an employee who told his boss that one of the company’s financial products was mispriced to proceed after the employer filed a motion to dismiss. The employee discovered that if the mistake were fixed, it would save the customers $2,000,000; but it would cost the company $1,150,000. In his complaint, he alleged that he was then fired for a false reason.
Some courts have held that in order for an employee’s complaint to be protected by the Dodd-Frank Act (making the person a “whistleblower“), the employee had to report the violation to the Securities and Exchange Commission itself. This judge, and others around the country, held that a complaint to one’s boss, or “up the chain,” was sufficient to make the employee a protected whistleblower.
That’s not the end of the story, though. The judge also held that the employee could not bring his case in court, but had to make his case to an arbitrator in an out of court proceeding. Stay tuned for more information on this trend in employment law!