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Know Your Rights: Whistleblower Protections in South Carolina

Whistleblower Rights in South Carolina

Whistleblowers are individuals who report illegal activities, unethical behaviors, or wrongdoing that takes place in their workplace. In South Carolina, there are various legal protections for whistleblowers under common law and statutory law.

Common Law Protections for Whistleblowers in South Carolina

One of the common law protections for whistleblowers in South Carolina is the public policy exception for wrongful discharge. This exception protects employees from retaliation for reporting illegal activities or unethical behaviors that go against public policy.

Employers are prohibited from firing, demoting, or harassing employees who report such activities. For example, if an employee reports that their employer is dumping hazardous waste into a nearby river, and the employer retaliates by firing the employee, the employee can file a wrongful discharge lawsuit based on the public policy exception.

Statutory Protections for Whistleblowers in South Carolina

In addition to common law protections, there are various statutory protections for whistleblowers in South Carolina. Public employees, in particular, benefit from several statutory protections.

Public employees are those who work for federal, state or local government agencies.

Discrimination

Under South Carolina law, public employees are protected from discrimination and retaliation for engaging in protected activities. For example, if an employee reports that their supervisor is sexually harassing them and is subsequently fired because of the report, the employee can file a discrimination claim.

Occupational Health and Safety

South Carolina’s Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, protects public and private employees from retaliation for reporting safety violations. This law allows employees to file complaints with the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation if they believe their employer is violating health and safety standards.

Workers’ Compensation

South Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act, provides similar protections for employees who report workplace injuries. An employee who is injured at work is entitled to file a workers’ compensation claim, and if the employer retaliates against them for doing so, the employee can file a lawsuit to recover lost wages or seek reinstatement.

Landlords

South Carolina’s Landlord-Tenant Act protects tenants from retaliation when they report unsafe or unhealthy living conditions. A tenant can file a complaint with the

South Carolina Human Affairs Commission if they believe their landlord has retaliated against them for reporting unsafe living conditions.

Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in South Carolina

If an employer retaliates against a whistleblower, the employee can file a retaliation claim. Depending on the type of claim, there are different procedures for filing.

Workers’ Compensation

If an employee files a workers’ compensation claim and is subsequently fired, they can file a lawsuit to recover lost wages or seek reinstatement. The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission has jurisdiction over these cases.

Public Employees

Public employees who are retaliated against can file a lawsuit against the government agency or the individual who retaliated against them. Administrative remedies can also be sought, such as filing a complaint with the

South Carolina Human Affairs Commission or filing a grievance with the employee’s union.

Occupational Health and Safety

Employees who are retaliated against for reporting safety violations can file a complaint with the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. The Department will then investigate the complaint and take appropriate action.

Conclusion

Whistleblower protection laws in South Carolina are designed to encourage employees to report illegal activities and unethical behaviors without fear of retaliation. Employees who have been fired, demoted, or harassed for reporting such activities can seek legal remedies under common law and statutory law.

Public employees, in particular, benefit from several statutory protections. If an employee has been retaliated against, they can file a retaliation claim and seek administrative or judicial remedies.

Whistleblower Hotlines in South Carolina

Whistleblowers who are afraid to report illegal activities or unethical behaviors within their workplace can take advantage of hotlines that will allow them to file complaints anonymously. In South Carolina, there are two primary hotlines that whistleblowers can utilize.

South Carolina Human Affairs Commission

The

South Carolina Human Affairs Commission is responsible for enforcing state and federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and race relations. One of their core functions is to receive and investigate complaints of discrimination.

Whistleblowers who have been retaliated against for reporting illegal activities or unethical behaviors in the workplace can file a complaint with the

South Carolina Human Affairs Commission. The Commission can investigate the complaint and, if necessary, take legal action against the employer or individual responsible for the retaliation.

South Carolina Department of Labor

The

South Carolina Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing the state’s labor laws and providing assistance to workers. They also operate a hotline that whistleblowers can use to report safety violations, wage and hour violations, and other labor law violations.

Whistleblowers who are afraid to report safety violations to their employer can contact the Department of Labor hotline. They can report the safety violation anonymously or provide their name and contact information if they prefer.

The Department of Labor will investigate the complaint and take appropriate action.

Whistleblower Retaliation and Violation Penalties in South Carolina

Retaliating against a whistleblower is a serious violation of South Carolina law, and employers who engage in such behavior may be subject to serious penalties and legal action. Workers’ Compensation

Employers who retaliate against a worker for filing a workers’ compensation claim may be required to pay the worker back pay and other types of equitable relief, such as reinstatement to their previous position.

If the employee is forced to file a lawsuit to get compensation and reinstatement, the employer may also be required to pay the employee’s attorney’s fees.

Discrimination

If an employer discriminates against an employee who has reported illegal activities and unethical behaviors, the employee may be entitled to reinstatement, lost wages, and attorney’s fees. If the employer is found to have willfully or intentionally violated the law, the employee may also be entitled to punitive damages.

Occupational Health and Safety

Employers who retaliate against whistleblowers who report safety violations may be required to rehire the employee and pay back pay and other types of equitable relief. If the employer refuses to comply with a court order to rehire the employee, they may be found in contempt of court and face additional penalties.

Landlords

If a landlord retaliates against a tenant for reporting unsafe living conditions, the tenant may be entitled to periodic rent reductions, actual damages, and attorney’s fees. If the landlord continues to retaliate even after a court order, they may face additional penalties.

Conclusion

Whistleblower rights are an important aspect of our legal system, and South Carolina has a number of laws and protections in place to encourage employees to report illegal activities and unethical behaviors without fear of retaliation. Whistleblower hotlines allow whistleblowers to report such activities anonymously and without fear of retaliation.

It is important for employers to understand the penalties they may face if they retaliate against a whistleblower, including lost wages, reinstatement, and other types of equitable relief. If an employer violates the law intentionally or willfully, they may also be required to pay punitive damages.

In South Carolina, whistleblowers have several legal protections under common and statutory law. The public policy exception for wrongful discharge is one of the common law protections for whistleblowers, while public employees are entitled to several statutory protections.

Workers’ compensation, occupational health and safety, and the Landlord-Tenant Act protect employees from retaliation. Whistleblower hotlines operated by the

South Carolina Human Affairs Commission and the Department of Labor offer a way for whistleblowers to report anonymously.

Employers who retaliate against whistleblowers face penalties that range from lost wages, equitable relief, and attorney fees to rehiring and reinstatement. It is crucial for whistleblowers to know their rights and for all employers to adhere to the law, ensuring a safe and ethical work environment for everyone.

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