While current news and pop culture have familiarized us with the concept of retaliatory discharge and termination, in practice we may not be so able to discern what it actually looks like. This is especially true if we are on the receiving end of such treatment. Confusion and anger can blind us to reality. If you have to question whether your termination was retaliatory in South Carolina, you may have a cause of action if you are able to find persuasive evidence.
Challenges to Proving Retaliatory Discharge
Retaliation discharge claims can be hard to prove in general, but retaliatory termination can be especially difficult simply because an employer may come up with any plausible explanation for your termination. It often winds up being an employer’s word against the employee’s. The burden of proof often winds up not on the employer to prove a firing was legitimate but rather on the employee to prove its illegitimacy.
South Carolina is an at-will employment state, expressly dictating the terms under which an employee can be said to have an employment contract which protects them from termination. This gives your employer a great deal of leeway in terminating you, as long as other requirements like notice and severance (if called for) are fulfilled. However, an employee may not be terminated for actions or inactions that are their legal right to exercise, and that is where the question of retaliation comes into question.
Employees Have Specific Rights
An important yet fine distinction that one has to draw when evaluating claims of this nature is whether or not a discharge is retaliatory or merely wrongful. The terms are not interchangeable. Retaliatory discharge is specifically being fired for exercising one’s rights under the law. With a retaliatory discharge, the thing to look for is an exercise of protected activity, which is, by law, an unacceptable reason to terminate someone. Actions like applying for accommodation under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) or reporting wrongdoing to the appropriate authorities are considered legal rights held by all employees.
Something that may also make a difference in your case is that you need not be summoned into your boss’s office and told “You’re fired” in words of one syllable. If you are mistreated and/or harassed, and if your work environment becomes obstructive or hostile, you may be able to claim what is called constructive discharge. You may not actually have been terminated affirmatively, but the environment in your workplace has become so negative that to return would cause significant harm (of any kind) to you. A retaliatory constructive discharge is still a discharge, and depending on the situation, it may be an actionable infraction.
Get An Experienced Attorney On Your Side
Retaliatory termination very often feels like a betrayal. If it has happened to you, you may be entitled to compensation, depending on the specific facts of your situation. Attorney A. Christopher Potts and his Charleston employment discrimination firm are ready to help.
Contact us today to set up an appointment.