Most of the time, when one encounters discrimination at work, their first move beyond speaking to their Human Resources department is usually to look into filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, there is an intermediate step that may have just as much success in redressing your grievances. It is possible to enlist the aid of the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC), which enforces the South Carolina Human Affairs Law. Depending on the nature of your complaint, they may be able to help you and your employer reach an agreement, avoiding federal proceedings.
The South Carolina Human Affairs law was passed in 1972. It provided for the existence of the commission to help ensure that antidiscrimination laws regarding the workplace were enforced. It still fills that role today, but the commission’s role has expanded to include issues such as access to public accommodations (or lack thereof) as well as arbitrating issues that the parties think may respond to such a tactic. The commission also has the jurisdiction and the enforcement clout to back up its holdings, which is not always granted to state commissions.
The law is administered by multiple departments within the commission, and all are required under law to do their due diligence in evaluating and processing claims of discrimination or unethical dealings. It is important to note that the commission both monitors and evaluates. The equality of state employment practices (though not of private entities’) falls under the purview of SCHAC, as does investigating and trying to settle allegations of discrimination.
Filing A Discrimination Claim
Be advised, if you believe you have a cause of action against your employer or a potential employer for discrimination, some attorneys prefer to file in federal court, even if you might think the SCHAC would be the best venue. The reason is that the South Carolina Human Affairs Law does not permit recovery of compensatory damages. This includes damages for intangible harms like loss of consortium or emotional pain and suffering. Nor does it permit punitive damages even if the misconduct is significant. Federal law does permit recovery of such damages if it is deemed appropriate, and as such, if there is a possible federal basis to pursue your claim, it is more likely that it will be taken than going through SCHAC.
The Human Affairs Law specifically bars discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin/ethnicity, religion, age, and disability. Note that as of this writing, sexual orientation is not included as a prohibited ground for discrimination, which is another reason why many attorneys prefer to bring suit in federal court. This is especially true if the issue focuses on real or perceived mistreatment due to homophobia or transphobia. Either way, if the relevant characteristic is covered by SCHAC, you are somewhat obligated to explore such options before investigating federal authority.
Contact An Experienced Attorney
Understanding the SCHAL, the EEOC and everything that differs between them can be difficult. If you consult a knowledgeable attorney, it can make things much easier to understand, and the odds are increased that you will be able to find a way to get the compensation you deserve. Attorney A. Christopher Potts and his North Charleston employment law discrimination firm will help you get your life back on track.
Contact us today to set up an appointment.