South Carolina has two main whistleblower statutes that cover employees who 1) make workplace safety or health complaints or 2) are public employees reporting legal violations or the misuse of public funds. In addition, South Carolina has a common law or case law public policy exception to the general at-will employment doctrine that allows employees to be discharged at any time for any reason. Public policy requires that an employee can’t be discharged for refusing to break the law or participate in the employer’s illegal activities or for filing a wage law complaint (such as being paid less than minimum wage). These are common sense protections providing by South Carolina courts in the past.
The two tables below detail the whistleblower statutes in South Carolina.
|Code Sections||South Carolina Code Sections: 41-15-510: Employees Shall Not Be Discriminated Against for Filing Complaints, Instituting Proceedings, or the Like and 41-15-520: Remedies of an Employee Charging Discrimination|
|Prohibited Employer Activity||Employers can’t discharge or discriminate against an employee if the employee files a complaint, institutes a proceeding, or testifies regarding statutes, rules, or regulations about the workplace occupational safety and health.|
|Employees Protected||This statute protects all public (government) and private employees.|
|Remedies||An employee in the private sector can file a complaint with the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (LLR) within 30 days of the violation. The LLR director can instigate an investigation if appropriate. LLR sues in civil court for the employee. Possible outcomes of the proceedings are reinstatement, back pay, and other appropriate relief.
A public sector employee who believes they were discharged or otherwise discriminated against can proceed with a civil action as described in the statute below.
South Carolina has a second whistleblower act that applies only to public employees because it’s specifically about the misuse of public funds or resources, which a public employee may be privy to.
|Code Sections||South Carolina Code Title 8: Public Officers & Employees, Chapter 27: Employment Protection for Reports of Violations of State or Federal Law or Regulation|
|Prohibited Employer Activity||Employers can’t dismiss, suspend, demote, or decrease compensation if an employee files a report on a possible violation of federal or state statute, laws, regulations, or ordinances about the substantial abuse, misuse, or loss of substantial public funds or resources.|
|Employees Protected||These laws necessarily only apply to public employees. Also, an employee can be terminated for making a report in bad faith.|
|Remedies||If an employee report results in the saving of public funds, 25% of the estimated net savings from first year implementation or a maximum of $2,000 will be rewarded to that employee.
Once an employee has exhausted all available grievance or other administrative remedies, he or she can file a nonjury civil action within 1 year of reporting or exhaustion of all available grievance, judicial, or administrative remedies to get reinstatement to his or her former job, back pay or lost wages, actual damages (to a maximum of $15,000), reasonable attorney's fees (a maximum of $10,000 for trial and $5,000 for appeal).
Note: Because state laws change frequently, you should verify the laws you are researching by conducting your own legal research or contacting a knowledgeable attorney.
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