South Carolina’s Whistleblower Protections — A Review for SC Lawyers, Lawyers & Laws Firms

South Carolina whistleblowers that are used by a South Carolina state government agency are shielded from unwanted employment actions once they regular report violations of state or perhaps federal laws or any other wrongdoing or regulations. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers as well as law firms which represent SC state governing administration whistleblowers have to be mindful of the protections afforded to these workers who are fired, demoted, suspended or maybe usually subjected to an adverse action in response to a report of other wrongdoing or fraud by a public agency or even one of its employees or officers. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers and also law firms need to in addition be cognizant of the management requirements essential to invoke the protections of the state’s anti retaliation statute, in addition to the comfort provisions afforded to such SC whistleblowers. In addition there are a whistleblower protections for government and private staff that claim violations of South Carolina’s occupational safety and health statutes, rules or polices.

South Carolina’s Whistleblower Protection Act for State Government Employees

South Carolina’s General Assembly enacted legislation referred to as the “Employment Protection for Reports of Violations of State or Federal Law or Regulation” (the “Act”) to defend South Carolina state personnel from retaliation or disciplinary actions when they report violations of state or maybe federal laws or additional wrongdoing or regulations such as misuse and fraud. Find out South Carolina Code § 8-27-10, et seq. The Act prohibits a South Carolina public entire body from lowering the compensation of, or dismissing, demoting or suspending, a state employee according to the employee’s filing of a protected report of wrongdoing with an appropriate authority. S.C. Code § 8-27-20(A). The protected report need to be made by the SC whistleblower in good faith and never be a mere technical violation. Id. The Act does not apply to private, non government companies or even employees. S.C. Code § 8-27-50.

A public body under the Act implies one of the following South Carolina entities: (A) a department of the State; (B) a state board, commission, committee, agency, or perhaps authority; (C) a public or governmental body or political subdivision of the State, which includes counties, municipalities, school districts, or special purpose or public system districts; (D) an organization, corporation, or maybe company supported in full or perhaps in part by public funds or even expending public funds; or, (E) a quasi-governmental body of the State and its political subdivisions. S.C. Code § 8-27-10(1).

A South Carolina personnel under the Act is a staff of any South Carolina public body entity, generally excluding those state executives whose appointment or maybe work is at the mercy of Senate confirmation. S.C. Code § 8-27-10(2).

An appropriate authority under the Act means whether (A) the public body which often employs the whistleblower making the safeguarded report, or perhaps (B) a federal, state, or perhaps local governmental body, company, or perhaps company having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement, regulatory violations, professional ethics or conduct, or wrongdoing, including but not minimal to, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (“SLED”), a County Solicitor’s Office, the State Ethics Commission, the State Auditor, the Legislative Audit Council (the “LAC”), and the Office of Attorney General (the “SCAG”). S.C. Code § 8-27-10(3). When a protected report is manufactured to an entity apart from the public body employing the whistleblower making the report, the Act usually requires the employing public body be informed as soon as practicable by the entity that received the report. Id.

A SC whistleblower employee’s shielded article under the Act is a written paper alleging waste or maybe wrongdoing which is made within sixty (sixty) days of the date the reporting employee first learns of the alleged wrongdoing, and which includes (a) the particular date of disclosure; (b) the name of the worker making the article; and, (c) the design of the date as well as the wrongdoing or perhaps range of dates on which the wrongdoing allegedly came about. S.C. Code § 8- DUI lawyer near me -10(4).

Pursuant to the Act, a reportable wrongdoing is any behavior by a public body and that results to loss, destruction, misuse, or substantial abuse of substantial public money or public resources, which includes allegations that a public staff has intentionally violated federal or state statutory law or maybe regulations or various other political subdivision ordinances or perhaps regulations or a code of integrity, S.C. Code § 8-27-10(5). A violation and that is merely technical and of a de minimus nature isn’t a “wrongdoing” under the Act. Id.

Rewards for SC Whistleblowers

When a SC state employee blows the whistle on fraudulent or abusive acts or maybe violations of federal, local laws or state, laws or rules, and also the protected report results in savings of public resources for the state of South Carolina, the whistleblower is permitted to a reward or perhaps bounty under the Act. Nonetheless, the reward is incredibly limited. The provisions of the Act offer that a SC whistleblower is permitted to the lesser of Two Thousand Dollars ($2,000) or maybe twenty-five % (25 %) of the estimated money saved by the state in the first year of the whistleblowing employee’s article. The South Carolina State Budget and Control Board can help determine the quantity of the financial reward which is being paid to the employee who’s eligible for the treat as a consequence of filing a bolstered report. See S.C. Code § 8-27-20(B). This treat is rather meager when compared to the bounty provisions of the federal False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3732 (the “FCA”). The FCA allows a qui tam whistleblower or relator to receive up to thirty % of the total length of the government’s retrieval against defendants with made fraudulent and false promises for fee to the United States. Some current federal FCA recoveries by the U.S. Department of Justice have exceeded $1 Billion Dollars.

But, the Act does not supersede the State Employee Suggestion Program, and if a whistleblower employee’s agency participates in the State Employee Suggestion Program, now items identified as involving “wrongdoing” must be referred as a suggestion on the program by the employee. A South Carolina government employee is permitted to just one reward both under the Act or under the State Employee Suggestion Program, at the employee’s choice. Id.

Civil Remedies for SC Whistleblowers

If a South Carolina government personnel suffers an adverse behavior regarding employment within one (one) year after having regular filed a protected report that alleged wrongdoing, the staff may institute a non jury civil action against the public body employer after consuming all available grievance or other management remedies, along with such grievance/administrative proceedings have generated a finding that the employee wouldn’t have been disciplined but just for the reporting of alleged wrongdoing. S.C. Code § 8-27-30(A). The negative action or retaliations are able to include is dismissal, suspension from work, demotion, or maybe a decrease in whistleblower’s compensation. The statutory treatments under the Act that the adversely effected employee might recover are (one) reinstatement to his or perhaps her former work position; (2) lost wages; (three) actual damages never to go beyond 15 1000 Dollars ($15,000); as well as (4) sensible attorney fees as determined by the court. Id. However, an award of attorney’s costs possesses a cap under the Act, and may not exceed Ten 1000 Dollars ($10,000) for any trial and Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000) for virtually every appeal. Id.

At least one court has dealt with the Act’s cures with admiration to a whistleblower employee. In Lawson v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, 340 S.C. 346, 532 S.E.2d 259 (2000), the S.C. Supreme Court held that when a whistleblower employee is restricted to a recovery under the statutory treatments of the Act when the staff alleges a wrongful discharge exclusively on the grounds of his whistleblowing. In Lawson, the court granted summary judgment against the employee since he couldn’t point to a violation of any policy, ethics rule, or other regulation as a basis for his whistleblower action which amounted to “wrongdoing” under the Act. Id.

Unwanted Actions Based Upon Causes Outside of a Protected Report

In the event the ideal authority which received the report determines the whistleblower employee’s report is unfounded and a simple technical violation and it is not manufactured in faith which is good, the public body could take disciplinary action including termination and also, notwithstanding the submitting of a report, a public body might dismiss, demote, suspend, or reduce the compensation of an employee for causes independent of the filing of a protected article. Id. A South Carolina public body might also force disciplinary sanctions against any strong line supervisory workers that strike back against an additional employee for having filed a good faith report.

Statute of Limitations

Under the Act, a whistleblower’s civil action has to be commenced within a single (one) calendar year after the accrual on the source of exhaustion or action of the available grievance or any other administrative and judicial remedies, or such a lawsuit is forever barred. S.C. Code § 8-27-30(B).

Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OSHA”) Whistleblower Protections

South Carolina includes a separate whistleblower protection statute for personnel that report violations of statutes, rules or perhaps polices regarding occupational safety and health. S.C. Code § 41-15-510. The protected activities normally include filing a complaint, instituting a proceeding, or even testifying about OSHA violations. Any kind of employee who has been discharged and normally discriminated against by any person in violation of Section 41-15-510 contains the best to file a complaint with the South Carolina Commission of Labor alleging such discrimination. The SC Labor Commissioner shall result in study to be produced as he or she deems appropriate, along with, if the Commissioner determines that anti-discrimination provisions of Section 41-15-510 are violated, he should institute a law suit within the correct court of common pleas against this low discriminating entity or individual. In any such action, the court of common pleas has injunctive authority to restrain such OSHA anti discrimination violations, and also authority to get all proper relief including rehiring or reinstatement of employee to his or perhaps the former location of her with back pay. S.C. Code § 41-15-520. Unlike the Act, the OSHA whistleblower protections are designed to state personal employees and government.


Conclusion

South Carolina whistleblowers that are used by a South Carolina state government agency are guarded from adverse employment actions when they reasonable report violations of state or perhaps federal laws or perhaps other wrongdoing or regulations. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers and law firms that represent SC state federal whistleblowers need to know the protections afforded to these workers that are fired, demoted, suspended or maybe normally subjected to an adverse action in reaction to a report of other wrongdoing or fraud by a public agency or perhaps one of its employees or officers. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers and law firms should examine the administrative requirements required to invoke the protections of the state’s anti retaliation statute, the statutes of boundaries, as well as the remedial provisions afforded to such SC state government whistleblowers, so as to effectively counsel such clients. Hence , as well, the employment attorney has to be aware of the rights and curatives of equally South and private Carolina governing administration employees which blow the whistle of violations of state OSHA statutes, rules or polices.

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