South Carolina’s Whistleblower Protections : A Review for SC Legal professionals, Lawyers & Laws Firms

South Carolina whistleblowers who are used by a South Carolina state government agency are guarded from unwanted employment actions when they appropriate report violations of state or federal laws or various other wrongdoing or regulations. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers as well as law firms who represent SC state government whistleblowers should be aware of the protections afforded to these staff members that are fired, demoted, suspended or maybe normally subjected to an adverse action in response to a report of other wrongdoing or fraud by a public agency or even one of its officers or employees. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers and law firms must in addition be cognizant of the management requirements needed to invoke the protections of the state’s anti-retaliation statute, as well as the comfort provisions afforded to such SC whistleblowers. There’s also some whistleblower protections for government and private workers that report violations of South Carolina’s occupational health and safety statutes, regulations or rules.

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 maybe Federal Law or Regulation” (the “Act”) to safeguard South Carolina state workers from disciplinary actions or retaliation when they report violations of state or maybe federal laws or perhaps regulations or other wrongdoing such as fraud and misuse. Find out South Carolina Code § 8-27-10, et seq. The Act prohibits a South Carolina public system from reducing the compensation of, or dismissing, suspending or demoting, a state employee determined by the employee’s filing of a protected report of wrongdoing with an appropriate authority. S.C. Code § 8-27-20(A). The protected report must be made by the SC whistleblower in faith which is good and never be a mere technical violation. Id. The Act doesn’t affect private, non government employers or employees. S.C. Code § 8-27-50.

A public body under the Act means one of the following South Carolina entities: (A) a department of the State; (B) a state board, percentage, committee, agency, or perhaps authority; (C) a public or governmental body or political subdivision of the State, including counties, municipalities, school districts, or perhaps unique purpose or maybe public service districts; (D) an organization, corporation, or maybe agency supported in entire or maybe in part by public funds as well as expending public money; or, (E) a quasi-governmental body of the State and its political subdivisions. S.C. Code § 8-27-10(1).

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

An appropriate authority under the Act means either (A) the public body that employs the whistleblower making the shielded report, or maybe (B) a federal, state, or regional governmental body, agency, or perhaps company having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement, regulatory violations, professional conduct or ethics, and wrongdoing, which includes 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 article is made to an entity other than the public body employing the whistleblower earning the article, the Act calls for the employing public body be notified as soon as practicable by the entity which often received the report. Id.

A SC whistleblower employee’s screened report under the Act is a written paper alleging waste or maybe wrongdoing that is manufactured within 60 (60) days of the date the reporting employee first learns of the alleged wrongdoing, and which includes (a) the date of disclosure; (b) the identity of the staff making the article; and, (c) the nature of the date along with the wrongdoing or perhaps range of dates on which the wrongdoing allegedly occurred. S.C. Code § 8-27-10(4).

Pursuant to the Act, a reportable wrongdoing is some action by a public body which results to loss, destruction, misuse, or substantial abuse of substantial public money or perhaps public online resources, including allegations that a public staff has intentionally violated federal or perhaps state statutory law or regulations or perhaps other political subdivision ordinances or regulations or perhaps a code of integrity, S.C. Code § 8-27-10(5). A violation which is only technical and associated with a de minimus nature is not a “wrongdoing” under the Act. Id.

Rewards for SC Whistleblowers

When a SC state employee blows the whistle on abusive or fraudulent acts or perhaps violations of federal, local laws or state, rules or regulations, in addition the protected report leads to savings of public money for the state of South Carolina, the whistleblower is entitled to a reward or bounty under the Act. Nonetheless, the reward is very limited. The provisions of the Act give that a SC whistleblower is permitted to the lesser of 2 Thousand Dollars ($2,000) or perhaps twenty-five % (twenty five %) of the predicted money saved by the state in the first year of the whistleblowing employee’s report. The South Carolina State Budget and Control Board can help determine the amount of the financial incentive which is to be given to the staff who is eligible for the treat as an outcome of filing a protected report. See S.C. Code § 8-27-20(B). This reward is rather meager when compared to the bounty provisions of the federal False Claims Act, thirty one U.S.C. §§ 3729-3732 (the “FCA”). The FCA allows a qui tam whistleblower or maybe relator to receive up to thirty % of the total length of the government’s recovery against defendants diagnosed with made false and fraudulent statements for fee to the United States. Some recent federal FCA recoveries by the U.S. Entertainment Lawyer of Justice have surpassed one dolars Billion Dollars.

Nevertheless, the Act does not supersede the State Employee Suggestion Program, of course, if a whistleblower employee’s company participates in the State Employee Suggestion Program, now items recognized as involving “wrongdoing” must be known as a suggestion to the software by the employee. A South Carolina government worker is entitled to one reward either 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 authorities employee suffers an adverse behavior related to work within one (1) year after getting timely filed a protected report that alleged wrongdoing, the worker may institute a non-jury civil action against the public body employer after using up all available grievance or other administrative remedies, and such grievance/administrative proceedings have resulted in a finding that the worker wouldn’t have been disciplined but for the reporting of alleged wrongdoing. S.C. Code § 8-27-30(A). The adverse action or retaliations can consist of is dismissal, suspension from work, demotion, or perhaps a lessening in whistleblower’s compensation. The statutory remedies under the Act that the adversely effected employee might recover are (one) reinstatement to his or her former employment position; (2) lost wages; (3) actual damages never to exceed 15 Thousand Dollars ($15,000); as well as (four) sensible attorney fees as based on the court. Id. However, an award of attorney’s costs has a cap under the Act, and may not exceed 10 1000 Dollars ($10,000) for virtually every trial and 5 Thousand Dollars ($5,000) for almost any appeal. Id.

At least 1 court has resolved the Act’s remedies with admiration to some 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 employee alleges a wrongful discharge exclusively on the justification of his whistleblowing. In Lawson, the court granted summary judgment against the worker since he could not point to a violation of other regulation, ethics rule, or any policy as a foundation for his whistleblower action that amounted to “wrongdoing” under the Act. Id.

Unwanted Actions Based Upon Causes Outside of a Protected Report

In the event the best suited authority which received the report establishes the whistleblower employee’s article is unfounded or a simple technical violation and is not manufactured in faith which is good, the public body might take disciplinary action which includes termination and, notwithstanding the filing of a report, a public body may dismiss, demote, suspend, or minimize the compensation of a staff member for causes independent of the filing of a protected article. Id. A South Carolina public body may also demand disciplinary sanctions against any one on one line supervisory workers that retaliate against yet another 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 (1) twelvemonth after the accrual of the reason behind action or exhaustion of the available grievance or other administrative as well as judicial cures, or such a lawsuit is forever barred. S.C. Code § 8-27-30(B).

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

South Carolina has a separate whistleblower protection statute for employees that report violations of statutes, rules or polices regarding occupational health and safety. S.C. Code § 41-15-510. The protected activities include filing a complaint, instituting a proceeding, or even testifying about OSHA violations. Any worker that has been discharged and otherwise discriminated against by anybody in violation of Section 41-15-510 has the right to file a complaint with the South Carolina Commission of Labor alleging such discrimination. The SC Labor Commissioner shall cause investigation to be made as he or maybe she deems appropriate, along with, if the Commissioner determines that anti discrimination provisions of Section 41-15-510 have been violated, he should institute a law suit within the proper court of common pleas against that discriminating entity or person. In any that move, the court of common pleas has injunctive power to restrain such OSHA anti-discrimination violations, and also authority to get most appropriate relief like reinstatement or rehiring of employee to his or perhaps her former position 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 employed by a South Carolina state government agency are protected from unwanted employment actions once they appropriate report violations of state or federal laws or perhaps other wrongdoing or regulations. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers and law firms that represent SC state federal whistleblowers have to know the protections afforded to these staff who are fired, demoted, suspended or normally subjected to an adverse action in response to a report of other wrongdoing or fraud by a public agency or perhaps one of its officers or employees. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers and law firms need to overview the management requirements needed to invoke the protections of the state’s anti-retaliation statute, the statutes of boundaries, in addition to the remedial provisions afforded to such SC state government whistleblowers, to be able to properly guide such clients. And so, as well, the employment lawyer must be cognizant of the rights and cures of both South and private Carolina governing administration staff who actually blow the whistle of violations of state OSHA statutes, laws or rules.

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