In South Carolina, employment is at-will, meaning that an employer doesn’t need a cause to terminate an employee. However, this does not mean that every discharge is fair or legal. If you believe that you’ve been wrongfully discharged in South Carolina for reasons that are protected under state or federal law, there are options you can explore to hold your employer accountable. Contact us at Hitchcock & Potts to determine what you can do.
When Is Termination Wrongful?
At-will employment has advantages for both the employer and the employee. Employees can leave their position without needing to give a reason, and employers can let an employee go without cause. However, there are four situations in which employment is demonstrably not at-will. This is when terminating employment unilaterally is not acceptable:
- If the employee is under an implied or express contract
- If the employer has provided alternative consideration for employment
- If the termination would clearly violate the public policy of the state of South Carolina
- If the termination is clearly against the law of the state or against federal law.
Often times, public policy can be difficult to define. If an action violates public policy, it means that it shocks the conscience of the average person. In terms of employment law, this includes making certain that terminations and other negative employment actions are not made on the basis of anything unfair or morally wrong. For example, a business firing an employee because they refused to participate in their employer’s unethical practices would generally be considered against public policy.
What Do I Do?
If you believe that your firing violates public policy or violates an anti-discrimination law, your first step is usually to file a complaint with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). South Carolina’s discrimination laws essentially mirror federal law, barring discrimination on the basis of race/color, gender/sex, national origin, pregnancy, disability, genetic information, and age (after the age of 40). If you can show that your termination was adversely linked to any of these factors, you may have a case against your employer.
The agency will investigate your complaint, usually over a period of months, and will help to resolve it without resorting to a lawsuit. If these efforts are unsuccessful and it is determined that you have a claim, the agency will do one of two things. It will either give you a letter which essentially grants the right to sue in civil court, or it will take up your case itself. Being granted a right-to-sue letter is the more common outcome given the sheer volume of cases submitted to the SCHAC and EEOC each year. If you get one, this doesn’t mean your case isn’t valid.
Call A South Carolina Employment Lawyer
It can be a real game-changer to lose your job suddenly, especially if it’s due to an unlawful or unfair reason. If you believe you have been wrongfully discharged in South Carolina, Attorney A. Christopher Potts has been handling these types of cases for years. Contact the firm of Hitchcock & Potts today to schedule an initial consultation.