Because the United States is comprised of fifty different jurisdictions, it can sometimes be confusing to try and understand your rights as an employee. South Carolina does guarantee certain rights to employees and contractors, and they do differ somewhat from neighboring states. One has to be aware of those rights to be certain that you can exercise them and can stand up for them if such a thing becomes necessary. In this article, we’ll provide a brief overview of South Carolina employee rights to help you with your situation.
Wage & Hour Discrimination
One fairly fundamental right enjoyed by employees in South Carolina is the right to a fair wage. While some states have raised their minimum wage above the federal level of $7.25 per hour, South Carolina has not. This is only for normal hours, however. There are special rules for overtime. South Carolina employers must pay $10.88 per hour for every hour past 40 hours worked. In other words, if a minimum-wage employee works 50 hours per week, they will be paid $7.25 per hour for the first 40, and then $10.88 per hour for the last 10.
Wage can be a common avenue for discrimination, especially against employees with disabilities. Employers may try to claim they do not owe overtime pay because an employee is exempt or salaried. But only executives, administrative professionals (secretaries and others in similar positions), and contractors are exempt. To get around paying overtime, an employer may also cut someone’s hours to lower than full time. Several businesses did this in the wake of the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in order to not have to pay them benefits, but this also cuts out overtime for many. To consciously do so is not illegal unless you can establish that it was done on the basis of disability (or another protected characteristic)—but it could be worth investigating regardless.
Breaks & Lunches
The right to breaks and lunches is one that is assumed to be a given, but in reality, it is nothing of the kind. Nothing in South Carolina law currently mandates that breaks or lunches be given, but if your employer does give you breaks, you must be paid for them, even if they last less than 30 minutes. If you are given a lunch break that is more than 30 minutes, you have the right to leave the building or the area itself.
It is less common than cutting wages or hours, but it is still common to deny breaks to those who may have a need for them out of retaliation. Disabled employees may need time to manage medicine or perform tasks that take longer for them than it would take an able-bodied person. To deny a break in order to recover stamina or manage one’s disability can absolutely be retaliatory. Another group of people who may face discriminatory actions based on needing breaks is nursing mothers. By law, working mothers are permitted to breastfeed their child in a specifically designated area that is not a bathroom, for up to one year. If an employer does not provide this, it can sometimes be shown that this is due to a discriminatory belief that mothers do not need this accommodation.
Ask A Knowledgeable Attorney
Employees do have rights in South Carolina, but they are not always the rights that people think they have. If you need clarification on South Carolina employee rights, or if you believe you have been discriminated against in terms of wages or breaks, consulting an attorney is a good idea. The Charleston employment law discrimination firm of Hitchcock & Potts can help answer your questions and suggest where to go from here.
Contact our office today to set up an appointment.