South Carolina is one of the many “at-will” employment states in the U.S., which means that a worker can be fired from their position for no particular reason. However, it does not necessarily mean that a worker has no right to seek redress for wrongful termination or other negative employment action that they did not deserve. If you have been unjustly terminated or discriminated against, it is important that you understand your rights and your options in seeking compensation.
Not Without Consequences
South Carolina law allows either the employer or the employee to end the employment relationship at any point in time. In other words, if an employee wants to quit their job, they are able to do so without giving notice. If the employer wants to terminate the employee, they can do so. However, this does not mean that an employer can unilaterally take negative action against an employee without any fear of reprisals.
As with any kind of employment action, termination based on an employee’s protected characteristics is strictly unlawful. The South Carolina Human Affairs Law (SCHAL) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 both prohibit any discrimination in the employment process (from hiring to firing) based on race/color, gender, religion, or national origin. The SCHAL also adds age and disability to the list of characteristics. If you are able to establish that one of these characteristics was behind your adverse employment action, you may have a case.
The Public Policy Exception
In addition to South Carolina’s antidiscrimination provisions, the at-will policy has an exception that is referred to as the public policy exception, which states that someone cannot be terminated for reasons that are in violation of public policy. “Public policy” is an amorphous concept in the law that’s roughly defined as the system of rules and laws that governs a functioning society. To violate it would shock the conscience of the public.
Essentially, an employer is not permitted to fire an employee if it would violate public policy. An employment action like a firing violates public policy if it is in retaliation to the employee’s refusing to break the law, or if the employee was following orders like complying with a subpoena. If this has happened to you, you may be able to seek remedies like back pay or even reinstatement if it can be shown that your employer acted unlawfully.
Contact A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Attorney
Although South Carolina is an at-will employment state, wrongful termination is still possible. Most of the time, an employee can find themselves rather unceremoniously out of a job, should their employer decide to make cuts. However, the employer cannot do so without regulation, and if they discriminate or act wrongly in doing so, you have the right to seek redress. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has years of experience in handling these types of cases, and is happy to help with yours. Contact the firm of Hitchcock & Potts today to schedule a consultation.