Today’s small businesses need to stay on top of employment laws. One of the recent laws that is of concern to many businesses is the Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblower Act. This act requires companies to provide their employees with the tools and opportunity to report unethical and unprofessional situations that are occurring within the company without fear of being fired or punished. Noncompliance with this law can cost a company legal fees, fines, and it can devastate their public image costing them customers and revenue. Small businesses can reduce the chances that they will be charged with a violation of this act by taking a few simple steps to improve their compliance with its requirements.
How to Comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act
There are five steps that a small business can take in order to comply with the requirements under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The first step is to adopt a policy that makes it easy for employees to report potential financial, accounting, ethical, or other professional issues that may impact the functioning of the company. This policy will need to outline how employees should report problems, and whom they should report problems to.
After developing a policy that creates the tools needed for easy reporting of professional issues, the second step is to train and educate the company’s employees on how to use the policy. This will include training managers to deliver appropriate responses to reports of misconduct or unprofessional behaviors, as well as to train managers and employees on how to properly communicate what is going on in the company. Lines of communication for processing reports related to unethical or unprofessional conduct also need to be established and managed so that reports are processed quickly and effectively.
The third step in complying with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act is to improve the management of employee performance. This means that monitoring and dealing with employee complaints in a timely manner will need to be given a higher priority than it has been given in the past. Each employee report needs to be taken seriously and it needs to be thoroughly investigated. This will not only help to intercept smaller issues, but it will also help to identify serious organizational problems as well.
The fourth step is to develop effective investigation strategies and procedures. When an employee reports an unethical or unprofessional conduct problem, the manager that receives the report needs to have strict guidelines available to them on how they should respond to the report. This will mean creating a detailed procedure manual that outlines how the investigation needs to be conducted, what company personnel need to be involved, how evidence is to be gathered, and how discipline and corrective measures need to be assigned to fix the problem as quickly as possible.
The final step in this process is to keep accurate and complete documentation of the entire process. This means completing physical reports of oral complaints, keeping written transcripts of conversations and meetings about the reported problem, any notes about the investigation or report need to be gathered and included in the report’s file, as do copies of evidence, reports, and other documentation that is related to the processing of the report. These pieces of information are the company’s evidence that they did everything in their power to follow the requirements of the SOX Act, and they can also be used to support their position if they ever go to court over the situation that was reported.