As any worker will tell you, most states subscribe to the theory of at-will employment, and South Carolina is no exception. However, there is one important loophole in the at-will employment doctrine, and that is when a concrete employment contract has been signed. While normally an employer may fire an employee for any non-discriminatory reason, the existence of an employment contract significantly restricts an employer’s ability to let an employee go, and may grant the employee greater power in resisting.
Employment Contracts in South Carolina
Like in most other states, an employment contract in South Carolina is created when an offer is tendered and then accepted, with sufficient consideration provided on both sides. The concept of sufficient consideration can be technical, but the best way to tell if a contract is supported by sufficient consideration is to see if something of value is exchanged between the parties as inducement to perform their side of the bargain. For example, an employment contract’s consideration is usually the employee’s actual commencement of the work bargained for. Until that work begins, an employment contract is merely two promises (an offer and an acceptance).
It is also worth noting that in some situations South Carolina does accept the doctrine that certain promises in an employer’s handbook constitute an offer of employment unless “conspicuously disclaimed.” The question of whether a disclaimer is conspicuous or not is a question of law, but according to the statute, the disclaimer should be in capital letters, signed by the employee, and placed in one of the first pages of the employee handbook.
Breach of Contract
If you are terminated before the conclusion of a valid employment contract that states that the employer has no right to fire you, you almost certainly will have a claim for breach of contract, if not wrongful termination. The two causes of action are similar, but have very definite differences that may ultimately affect the nature and amount of any recovery.
Generally, when someone breaches a valid contract, they must pay as damages the amount the non-breaching party would have received. So, for example, if you have a valid employment contract and your employer terminates you in order to hire a new employee, you could be entitled (if you prevailed) to the remainder of the pay due to you for the term of the contract. That said, plaintiffs do usually have a duty to mitigate damages. In other words, plaintiffs usually have a duty to try and offset as much of the potential damages as possible. Sometimes, they may not be able to do much, but their claim could remain valid if the facts fit the pattern.
Get an Employment Discrimination Attorney on Your Side
While not every breach of contract claim is discriminatory, many are. If you believe this to be the case for you, it is a good idea to speak to an attorney familiar with this type of law. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has been handling wrongful termination and employment discrimination for years, and he is happy to help you get the compensation you deserve.
Contact us today for a consultation on your case.