The average person is employed “at will,” meaning that they can be fired for any reason, with rare exceptions. However, one cannot be fired or experience negative employment action (such as being demoted or forcing a pay cut) as retaliation for any kind of protected activity. If you suspect that you have been a victim of retaliation, consulting an experienced attorney is a good idea, as you have rights in these situations.
Retaliation Is Unlawful
At-will employment is sometimes used as a threat against the average employee, because it means that an employee can be terminated without any real cause. However, this does not mean that an employer can act with impunity. Retaliation most often occurs because an employee has engaged in activity that the employer finds undesirable. But if that activity is protected, the employer may find themselves liable for damages, or you may even be granted your job back.
There are two types of protected activity. One involves taking action against the employer. For example, by filing a discrimination complaint after unfair treatment or testifying in any kind of ethics proceedings against your employer, such as a qui tam case. The other type is defending oneself against discriminatory treatment. A common example of this is being fired after refusing sexual advances from a coworker. In either case, you have the right to seek redress after being mistreated.
What Do I Do?
If you believe that you have been retaliated against with negative employment action or termination, the first thing you need to understand is that the type of case you have will define what steps you should take. Unlike with most cases involving employment discrimination or mistreatment, for example, a wrongful termination case can simply be filed in the appropriate district court, without the need to involve employment authorities like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
That said, cases involving discrimination or other negative employment action are more complex. If you have been retaliated against because you failed to accept a discriminatory environment, you would file a charge with either the EEOC or the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (HAC). Keep in mind that there is a time limit in which a charge must be filed. The time limit is generally 180 days from the date of the incident with the HAC, though it can be up to 300 days if you file with the EEOC.
Call A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Attorney
If you suspect that you have been a victim of retaliation, consulting an experienced employment discrimination attorney is a good idea. An attorney can help you determine your path going forward. A. Christopher Potts and the firm of Hitchcock & Potts have experience in these types of cases. Our firm is happy to assist you. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.