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Whistleblowing & Employment Discrimination

Employers are not infallible. At times, they can act against their employees’ best interests when it serves their bottom line. If this violates the law, employees have an obligation to inform on their employer. But many do not out of fear of reprisals. If you are discriminated against or experience what is called an adverse employment action as a result of whistleblowing on your employer’s illegal activity, you have options to seek redress.

Exceptions To At-Will Doctrine

Normally, employees in South Carolina can be fired for any reason. This is called the at-will employment doctrine. It means that either the employer or employee can terminate the relationship at any moment. There are, however, exceptions—situations in which someone cannot be summarily fired. One of these exceptions is called the public policy exception. Basically, this means that if the reason for or the method of termination would go against state public policy (objectives that the state upholds as being good for society), someone may not be fired.

South Carolina does recognize both common law and statutory protections for whistleblowers. This means that both case precedent and statutory law support a ban on retaliation or termination from an employer in cases of discrimination or whistleblowing on illegal activity. In short, if you find out that your employer is doing something unethical, and you are harassed or terminated for it, it is going to be against state law in most instances. This is in addition to any federal employment law that your employer’s conduct might breach.

Bringing A Charge

In order to hold your employer accountable, what you would do depends on the nature of the action against you. If you were terminated over the actions you took in informing on your employer’s illegal or unethical activity, you would likely bring a wrongful termination lawsuit. Note that a suit must be brought within 3 years of the termination. This is usually done in the jurisdiction where you live or where your employer is located, with the help of an experienced attorney.

If you have been discriminated against, however, the procedure is slightly different. Before filing suit, you must file a charge with either the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC) or with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This is a step required by law, which ostensibly weeds out weaker suits or urges them toward mediation. Once you have filed the charge, the agency (whichever one) will investigate your claims and either agree to take up the case in court—or it will issue you a Right To Sue letter. This letter does not mean your case is flawed or that it is somehow not worth pursuing. It means that both SCHAC and EEOC receive countless cases per year and cannot handle them all.

Ask An Attorney For Help

Being terminated or otherwise penalized for doing the right thing can be frightening and infuriating. However, you are not without options. A knowledgeable employment law attorney can be your best weapon in dealing with your employer. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has many years’ experience in these cases and can help you with yours. Contact Hitchcock & Potts today to schedule an appointment.

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