Complying with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)

Is your organization complying with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”)? If you are like many executives, business owners and/or managers, you may not even know what this law is, nor that it prohibits certain forms of payments to foreign government officials.  You also may not know that substantial penalties (including jail time) are imposed if your business fails to comply with FCPA requirements.  

What is the FCPA? 

The FCPA, 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-1 et seq., is a United States criminal law that prohibits bribery of foreign government officials and requires companies to maintain accurate records.  The FCPA was enacted for the purpose of outlawing certain classes of persons from making payments to foreign government officials for the purpose of obtaining new business or retaining existing business.   All United States companies are subject to the FCPA, regardless of where they are doing business. 

The FCPA also requires companies whose securities are listed in the United States to meet its accounting provisions. See 15 U.S.C. § 78m. These accounting provisions, which were designed to operate in tandem with the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA, require corporations covered by the provisions to (a) make and keep books and records that accurately and fairly reflect the transactions of the corporation and (b) devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls. 

Who is Charged with Enforcing the FCPA and What Are the Penalties for Violation of this Law? 

Enforcement of the FCPA is a priority for the US Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and many foreign governments.  Penalties for violating the FCPA are severe, and include the following: 


  • $2 million criminal fine per violation or twice the gain (in reality, fines can be tens of million of dollars); 
  • Debarment (co. cannot do business with the government); 
  • Disgorgement of profits from unlawful business; 
  • Expensive investigations and legal fees; and 
  • Terrible press coverage. 


  •  up to 5 years in prison per violation (in some recent cases, jail terms have been even higher due to multiple violations); 
  • $100,000 criminal fine per violation; 
  • $10,000 civil penalty or gross gain; 
  •  The fine shall not be paid, directly or indirectly, by the company; and 
  • Loss of job.  
Online Training to Prevent FCPA Violations 

Training managers and anyone in your organization that does business with foreign officials on the provisions of the FCPA is essential to protect them and the company from accusations of illegal business practices.   

Syntrio, Inc. specializes in providing business Ethics and HR Compliance Training.  Contact us today at 888-289-6670 to learn more about our FCPA: Anti-Corruption and Bribery course.  


Gender Identity Discrimination Under Title VII

Sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination have been hot topics in the news as big victories in state and federal courts have been scored, granting individuals equal rights in recent years. As a bi-product of these legal victories, human resources managers are naturally seeking further advice on state and federal laws and regulations regarding the prevention of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the workplace.

Title VII and State Laws

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against members of certain protected classes. Among those protected classes enumerated within the law and its implementing regulations are race; color; religion; sex; and national origin. Importantly, federal law is presently silent with respect to issues of sexual orientation.

Several states, including (but not limited to) California, Illinois, Oregon, Colorado, Minnesota, and Washington have enacted comprehensive laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Moreover, Wisconsin, New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont have enacted laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (but not gender identity).

EEOC and Federal Court Interpretation of Title VII

Since 2012, the tide has been changing with respect to EEOC and federal court interpretation of the term “sex” within Title VII. In fact, the EEOC has issued published opinions wherein it has held that discrimination against a person because he or she is transgender is discrimination based on sex, and is therefore discrimination within the meaning of Title VII. Further, federal judges have opined that Title VII can be used to protect homosexual individuals from discrimination in the workplace.

These decisions, which expand the meaning of the term “sex,” as it is used in Title VII, are controversial and will likely face substantial challenges and appeals by conservative groups and other parties interested in preventing the expansion of the anti-discrimination law to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. Nevertheless, it is safe to assume that more courts will follow suit and recognize equal rights for all employees.

Discrimination lawsuits are costly to defend and can lead to substantial verdicts or settlements as well as public stigma associated with negative press. Human resources professionals need to ensure workplace policies are up-to-date and that managers, supervisors and employees are aware of their rights, responsibilities and obligations to maintain a discrimination and harassment-free workplace.

Syntrio, Inc. specializes in providing Ethics and HR compliance training. Contact us today at 888-289-6670.


Employee Cusses out Supervisor due to Workplace Harassment Protected by NLRB

We have all had bad days at work where personal or professional circumstances put us in a mood where we “just can’t take it anymore.” Many of us have had visions of walking into a demanding supervisor’s office and “reading him or her the riot act.” We may have even had a casual conversation during the holidays where we suggest to our Cousin Eddie that he tie up the boss and bring him to the house so that we can tell him off in person. Suffice to say, most employees are rational people who never go to such extreme measures, and those who do can reasonably expect to be fired. Unfortunately, the extreme reactions discussed above are often responses to serious (and illegal) conduct on behalf of a supervisor in the form of workplace harassment.

What is Workplace Harassment?

Workplace harassment is a form of discrimination that is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as various other state and federal laws. These laws prohibit conduct based on a protected category (race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or genetic information) where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of employment or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.

Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance. It is important to note that workplace harassment can come from a supervisor, co-worker or even a non-employee.

Employees Who Attempt to Combat Conduct They Feel is Harassing Receive New Protection from the NLRB

On May 28, 2014, in Plaza Auto Center and Nick Aguirre, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that a car salesman named Nick Aguirre, who cussed out his employer for giving him a hard time after Aguirre complained about the compensation structure at the car dealership, was engaged in acceptable conduct. The crux of the Board’s decision stated that while such an employee’s conduct may be obscene, it did not rise to “menacing, physically aggressive, or belligerent conduct.” Because the employee’s outburst was about work, the Board concluded that the employee was discharged due to “protected, concerted activity” in violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). One other important thing to note is that the car dealership where the employee in Plaza Auto Center worked was a non-union environment.

The supervisor conduct that led to Aguirre’s outburst may have been harassing in this view (depending on the circumstances). In any event, Aguirre was obviously unhappy with the way he was being treated at work. Although the Board’s decision in this case was extreme, it paints a worst-case scenario for employers and their managers who come into conflict with a disgruntled employee. As such, it is all the more important to protect your business with management training that provides the greatest level of protection against workplace harassment.

Syntrio, Inc. specializes in providing Ethics and HR Compliance Training including harassment prevention training. Contact us today at 888-289-6670 to discuss the ways Syntrio, Inc. can help your supervisors and HR Professionals ensure that they are up to date with state and federal laws.