Employers do not always act ethically. When that happens, the responsibility is on any employee with knowledge of the behavior to call it out, lest they wind up complicit. If you’re in a position where you have information about any inappropriate dealings of your employer, you may be able to inform the government and be compensated monetarily for your testimony. This type of suit is referred to as a whistleblower lawsuit. You cannot legally be fired for blowing the whistle.
Exceptions To The At-Will Doctrine
South Carolina is an at-will state, which means that workers can be terminated at any time, for any reason. However, the state recognizes certain exceptions. One of which is a statutory prohibition on terminating people in retaliation for informing authorities about conduct that violates public policy. In other words, the law does not allow an employer to fire—or take any other negative employment action—against an employee solely because that employee engaged in protected activity.
The phrase “protected activity” has a very specific meaning in whistleblower law. It essentially refers to providing information or otherwise complying with authorities. For example, if an employee provides information on unethical behavior by their employer (such as a pattern of discrimination) to the relevant authorities, the employer cannot terminate them merely for speaking out. Presumably, the employee is complying with the law in speaking up, and terminating someone for following the law is both unethical and illegal in South Carolina.
How To File Suit?
There are a few specific categories of protected activity:
- Reporting criminal actions, waste, civil violations, or mismanagement of government funds (among other actions)
- Refusing to comply with an unlawful order or practice
- Testifying in any proceeding before Congress or another regulatory body to assist in an investigation
There are others, but these are the most commonly seen, and arguably, the easiest to establish.
In order to actually file a whistleblower suit, you would consult the relevant authorities in either South Carolina or at the federal level, depending on the nature of the situation. If you face retaliation as a direct result of a whistleblower suit, you may be able to simply file a wrongful termination suit in district court, unlike with most other employment discrimination related cases. Retaliation claims are normally handled by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which would want to investigate before proceeding with a lawsuit.
Call A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Attorney
You cannot legally be fired for blowing the whistle—doing the right thing should not carry any kind of penalty. If you have experienced this type of situation, you may be able to seek compensation for what you have been through. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has been handling these types of cases for years and is happy to help you with yours. Contact the firm of Hitchcock & Potts today to schedule a consultation.