Wrongful termination laws may exist at the state or the federal level, and they are intended to protect employees from unjust workplace termination and give them proper recourse in the event they are wrongfully fired. For example, workers cannot be terminated for their race or gender, and they also may not be fired for engaging in any whistle-blowing acts against the employer. The basis for most wrongful termination laws is the theory of at-will employment.
At-Will Employment in South Carolina
South Carolina is what is known as an at-will employment state. At the heart of the concept of at-will employment is the fact that employees may quit a position at any time and for virtually any reason, and employers may terminate employee relationships at any time and for virtually any reason.
Wrongful Termination in South Carolina
While South Carolina is an at-will employment state, there are a number of state and federal exceptions. For example, an employer may not terminate an employee relationship because of the employee’s race, color, gender, disability or religious beliefs, among other things. They also may not terminate an employee currently under contract or an employee who takes advantage of his or her legal rights, such as whistleblowing. When violations occur, the employer can be sued for wrongful termination.
Breach of Contract: South Carolina’s employers are not allowed to terminate employees with whom they hold existing oral or written contracts, and they also may not sever collective union bargaining contracts. The state also recognizes employment contracts in employee handbooks that give employees a reasonable sense of job security. For example, if a handbook says an employer follows a “three strike” rule and an employee is fired after only one strike, the employer may be found in breach of contract.
Discrimination: In the state of South Carolina, employees cannot be fired because of race, color, country of origin, age or genetics. They also cannot be fired for becoming pregnant or for having any type of disability. Generally, state employers with at least 15 employees are required to adhere to these laws, although an employer must have at least 20 employees for age-discrimination laws to take effect, and a minimum of four for citizenship status discrimination laws to apply. South Carolina workers also cannot be terminated in retaliation for exercising their legal, protected rights. For example, employees can’t be fired for seeking worker’s compensation from the employer or for blowing the whistle about unlawful business practices.
Retaliation: Those who file complaints against their employers (for unsafe business practices, sexual discrimination, etc.) may not, under state or federal law, be terminated for doing so. The employer is not able to engage in retaliatory behavior in the event that an employee exercises his or her state or federal rights, or because he or she reports poor working conditions or an unsafe work environment. Workers also may not be terminated for alerting authorities about unlawful business practices, such as when an employer fails to pay overtime.
Public Policy: Despite its status as an at-will employment state, South Carolina observes what is known as a “public policy” exemption. Essentially, this exemption means state employers are not allowed to terminate employee relationships for reasons that are in clear violation of public policy. If this occurs, the employee can question the employer’s motivations in terminating the relationship through filing a lawsuit against the employer. In the state of South Carolina, the employee must provide proof that the firing was for one of three reasons: the employee refused to break the law on the employer’s behalf, the employee refused to be an active participant in the illegal activities of the employer, or the employee complied with what was asked of him or her in an active subpoena and was terminated as a result.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.