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Most employment lawyers have a basic understanding of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and its corporate responsibility program requirements. Few, however, know about the federal sentencing guidelines and the related requirements for ethics and compliance programs. The price of that ignorance can be high.

Just as an organization can be held civilly liable for harassment by low-level supervisors, it also can be held criminally responsible for acts committed by employees acting within the scope of their duties when the acts were intended in part to benefit the employer. And when the federal government prosecutes companies for such crimes, it looks to the requirements of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Organizations to evaluate the quality of company efforts to prevent criminal and unethical conduct in the workplace.

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