Steven J. Pearlman is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and Co-Head of the Whistleblowing & Retaliation Group and the Restrictive Covenants, Trade Secrets & Unfair Competition Group.
Steven’s practice covers the full spectrum of employment law, with a particular focus on defending companies against claims of employment discrimination, retaliation and harassment; whistleblower retaliation; restrictive covenant violations; theft of trade secrets; and wage-and-hour violations. He has successfully tried cases in multiple jurisdictions, and defended one of the largest Illinois-only class actions in the history of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. He also secured one of only a few ex parte seizures orders that have been issued under the Defend Trade Secrets Act, and obtained a world-wide injunction in federal litigation against a high-level executive who jumped ship to a competitor.
Reporting to boards of directors, their audit committees, CEOs and in-house counsel, Steven conducts sensitive investigations and has testified in federal court. His investigations have involved complaints of sexual harassment involving C-suite officers; systemic violations of employment laws and company policies; and fraud, compliance failures and unethical conduct.
Steven was recognized as Lawyer of the Year for Chicago Labor & Employment Litigation in the 2023 edition of The Best Lawyers in America. He is a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. Chambers describes Steven as an “outstanding lawyer” who is “very sharp and very responsive,” a “strong advocate,” and an "expert in his field." Steven was 1 of 12 individuals selected by Compliance Week as a "Top Mind." Earlier in his career, he was 1 of 5 U.S. lawyers selected by Law360 as a "Rising Star Under 40" in the area of employment law and 1 of "40 Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch" selected by Law Bulletin Publishing Company. Steven is a Burton Award Winner (U.S. Library of Congress) for "Distinguished Legal Writing."
Steven has served on Law360’s Employment Editorial Advisory Board and is a Contributor to Forbes.com. He has appeared on Bloomberg News (television and radio) and Yahoo! Finance, and is regularly quoted in leading publications such as The Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has engaged Steven to serve as lead counsel on amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court and federal circuit courts of appeal. He was appointed to serve as a Special Assistant Attorney General for the State of Illinois in employment litigation matters. He has presented with the Solicitor of the DOL, the Acting Chair of the EEOC, an EEOC Commissioner, Legal Counsel to the EEOC and heads of the SEC, CFTC and OSHA whistleblower programs. He is also a member of the Sedona Conference, focusing on trade secret matters.
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On February 15, 2023, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio granted a defendant-employer’s motion for summary judgment on SOX whistleblower retaliation claims, holding that the plaintiff failed to establish the elements of a SOX claim, and that the company demonstrated that it would have discharged her in the absence of any … Continue Reading
OSHA’s new nationwide year-long pilot program that took effect on February 17, 2023, will aim to streamline the whistleblower complaint intake process. OSHA, which administers over two dozen whistleblower statutes, has seen a rising number of whistleblower complaints filed in recent years. This pilot program aims to relieve the strain on OSHA’s investigative resources by … Continue Reading
On January 4, the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a former bank executive’s whistleblower retaliation claims, holding that two procedural errors doomed his case: he sued before exhausting his administrative remedies; and then he belatedly filed an administrative complaint after the statute of limitations had run. Jaludi v. Citigroup, No. 21-cv-1108. Background Plaintiff alleged … Continue Reading
On December 6, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted a defendant-employer’s motion for summary judgment on whistleblower retaliation claims brought under SOX and the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 (“CFPA”). It held that the plaintiff could not prove that her alleged complaints of illegal conduct contributed to the … Continue Reading
On August 26, 2022, the Third Circuit affirmed a grant of summary judgment in favor of an employer, holding that whistleblower retaliation protections in the False Claims Act did not protect an employee from being discharged for harassing a co-worker. Crosbie v. Highmark Inc., et al., No. 21-1641. Background Plaintiff was a fraud investigator for … Continue Reading
On November 15, 2022, the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower (OWB) released its annual report to Congress covering the period from October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2022. The report highlights a record-breaking year for the SEC’s whistleblower bounty program in certain respects, explains factors that can increase or decrease award amounts, and discusses recent … Continue Reading
On October 20, 2022, the Ninth Circuit reversed in part a grant of summary judgment in favor of an employer, finding that the district court misapplied the substantive law of California in holding that Plaintiff’s disclosures to his supervisor and to a third-party contractor did not constitute protected activity under the California Whistleblower Protection Act. … Continue Reading
On October 7, 2022, OSHA announced that it had ordered ExxonMobil Corp. to immediately rehire two computational scientists who alleged that they were fired in retaliation for leaking to the media their concerns about improper conduct by the company. In addition to reinstatement, the former employees were also awarded over $800,000 in back-pay, interest and … Continue Reading
On July 20, 2022, the Tenth Circuit affirmed a $1 million jury award to a former employee who claimed he was demoted in retaliation for reporting that his supervisor instructed him to falsify test results on a program used by the U.S. military. Casias v. Raytheon Co., Nos. 21-1195 and 21-1205 (10th Cir. 2022). Background … Continue Reading
On August 26, 2022, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it had adopted two amendments to its whistleblower program rules proposed earlier this year (see our post here). The first amendment allows whistleblowers who would have been eligible for an award under another whistleblower program that would not give them as high an … Continue Reading
On July 13, 2022, the First Circuit reversed a denial of summary judgment, finding plaintiff could not satisfy his burden of showing he engaged in protected activity under the SOX whistleblower protection provision. Baker v. Smith & Wesson, No. 21-2019 (1st Cir. 2022). The decision affirms that protected activity under SOX is limited to reporting … Continue Reading
On July 19, 2022, the SEC announced an award of more than $17 million award to a whistleblower who provided critical information and assistance to the SEC in a covered action and related action. (The order granting the award can be accessed here.) The SEC noted that because the same information provided led to the … Continue Reading
On February 10, 2022, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced two proposed amendments to its whistleblower program rules. As we previously reported here, a closely divided SEC adopted a final rule implementing several changes to its whistleblower program in September 2020. On January 13, 2021, a whistleblower attorney filed a lawsuit in the U.S. … Continue Reading
On January 27, 2022, the California Supreme Court settled an inconsistency that has divided the courts of appeal with respect to the proper evidentiary standard for whistleblower retaliation claims under California Labor Code section 1102.6. It ruled that the “contributing-factor” standard applies. Lawson v. PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc., No. S266001, __ P.3d __, 2022 WL … Continue Reading
On November 17, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York held that a company and its CEO violated Rule 21F-17 of the Exchange Act by entering into confidentiality agreements with investors that prohibited communications with the SEC, and subsequently attempting to enforce those agreements. SEC v. Collectors Coffee Inc., No. … Continue Reading
On November 17, 2021, the EEOC updated its technical guidance on COVID-19 and anti-discrimination with a new anti-retaliation section. The new section largely restates existing statutory anti-retaliation protections in the context of COVID-19. The guidance provides several examples of COVID-related protected activity, which include filing a charge with the EEOC alleging that an employer has … Continue Reading
On November 23, 2021, the SEC issued an award of $400,000 to a whistleblower who voluntarily provided the SEC with original information that assisted the agency in bringing a successful enforcement action that resulted in the termination of an ongoing Ponzi-like scheme. This award is notable in that the claimant received an award even though … Continue Reading
On November 15, 2021, the SEC published its annual report to Congress covering the period from October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021. The report was prepared by the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower to summarize its whistleblower bounty program, report on the program’s recent dramatic growth, and highlight key amendments to the SEC’s whistleblower … Continue Reading
On June 28, 2021, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granted the Company’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss after an executive claimed he was discharged in violation of the Dodd-Frank Act’s (DFA) whistleblower protection provision for alerting the Company and authorities about possible tax fraud. Airton Amorim De Almeida v. … Continue Reading
On October 15, 2021, the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower announced multi-million dollar awards to two whistleblowers who provided the SEC with information that assisted the agency in bringing a successful enforcement action. (The order granting the awards can be accessed here.) The larger of the two awards, $32 million, was awarded to the whistleblower … Continue Reading
On September 24, 2021, the SEC announced an approximately $36 million award to a whistleblower who provided critical information to the SEC that contributed to a successful enforcement action. (The order granting the award can be accessed here.) Emily Pasquinelli, Acting Chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower noted that “[w]histleblowers can act as … Continue Reading
On June 23, 2021, the SEC announced that Guggenheim Securities, LLC (“Company”) agreed to settle charges that it violated Rule 21F-17 by including language in its compliance manual and training materials that allegedly prohibited employees from contacting regulators without prior Company approval. Without admitting or denying the findings in the SEC’s order, the Company consented … Continue Reading
On July 26, 2021, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California held, after a bench trial, that Plaintiff Botta failed to prove that Defendant PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (“PwC”) terminated his employment in retaliation for his filing of a complaint with the SEC, and dismissed his whistleblower claims brought under SOX and California … Continue Reading
On July 21, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York held that the whistleblower protections established in SOX are not restricted to employee whistleblowers, but also extend to shareholders. SEC v. Collector’s Coffee Inc., No. 19-cv-4355. Background As we previously reported, in 2019 the SEC sued online auction portal Collectors … Continue Reading