Halliburton, Inc. v. Administrative Review Board, Dept. of Labor, No. 13-60323 (5th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
An employee of Halliburton, Anthony Menendez, submitted a complaint to management about the company's questionable accounting practices and also filed a complaint with the SEC. The Review Board subsequently determined that Halliburton's disclosure to Menendez's colleagues of his identity as the SEC whistleblower who had caused an official investigation, resulting in Menendez's workplace ostracism, constituted illegal retaliation under section 806 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), 18 U.S.C. 1514A(a). The court held that to maintain an antiretaliation claim under SOX, as in these circumstances here, the employee must prove that his protected conduct was a contributing factor in the employer's adverse action. The court rejected Halliburton's argument that the Review Board committed legal error by failing to require proof that the company had a wrongful motive. The court rejected Halliburton's contention that the damages awarded to Menendez for emotional distress and reputational harm are not noneconomic compensatory damages available under SOX. The court agreed with the Tenth Circuit that the plain language of SOX's text relating to remedies for retaliation affords noneconomic compensatory damages and this conclusion comports with the decisions of the Seventh and Eighth Circuits respecting essential identical statutory text in the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729-3733. The court concluded that Halliburton failed to show that the Review Board's decision was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise contrary to law. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.