North Myrtle Beach has come under fire in recent months, with two former employees filing employment discrimination suits against the city in the span of one calendar month. On April 15, a former employee filed a suit alleging race-based discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation. On May 3, another employee filed a suit alleging religious discrimination and the creation of a hostile work environment. While neither suit has been settled, it is still instructive to know your options if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.
Protected Characteristics At Issue
Most discrimination claims that are based on protected characteristics like race or religion are filed under either the South Carolina Human Affairs Law (HAL), or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Both of these laws cover claims of alleged intentional discrimination as well as those involving unconscious bias (that is, actions that create a discriminatory environment when that was not necessarily the intention). They also encompass other characteristics, such as sex/gender and national origin.
While overtly discriminatory actions are fairly easy to establish in court, it can sometimes be difficult to prove a more subtle pattern of inappropriate or unfair treatment, simply because in these cases, you must be able to show a specific relationship between the treatment you received and any indirect harm that has befallen those in your same situation. For example, the Hispanic woman who filed suit based on alleged race discrimination was misclassified as an independent contractor, denying her the benefits owed to her as a full-time employee. If information came to light that every other woman of color had been misclassified as well, it would be evidence of North Myrtle Beach’s discriminatory behavior against her.
One of the lawsuits against North Myrtle Beach’s government alleges that the plaintiff was “disciplined” because they reported alleged discrimination to management. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines retaliation as treating an employee badly because they reported or complained about employment discrimination, or participated in any kind of employment discrimination hearing, and it is actionable.
The plaintiff alleges that after reporting discriminatory behavior to management, they were “disciplined” for “minor work infractions,” as well as being one of the earliest to be furloughed. If they can prove that these actions were taken due to the complaint made about prior discrimination, she may be able to recover for her employer’s alleged retaliation. An employer may not terminate someone for engaging in protected activity, under any circumstances, and speaking up about alleged discrimination is a protected activity as long as it is done in good faith.
Contact A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Attorney
While the outcome of these lawsuits remains to be seen, it is worth knowing that you have options if you have been mistreated at work. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has handled employment discrimination cases in South Carolina for many years, and the firm of Hitchcock & Potts may be able to help you with yours. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.