South Carolina’s Whistleblower Protections : A Review for SC Attorneys, Lawyers & Legislation Firms

South Carolina whistleblowers who are used by a South Carolina state government agency are guarded from unwanted employment actions after they appropriate report violations of state or maybe federal laws or perhaps any 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 personnel who are fired, demoted, suspended or perhaps otherwise subjected to an adverse action in reaction to a report of fraud or any other wrongdoing by a public agency or even one of its employees or officers. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers as well as law firms need to additionally be mindful of the management requirements needed to invoke the protections of the state’s anti retaliation statute, as well as the relief provisions afforded to certain SC whistleblowers. There’s also some whistleblower protections for personal staff members and government who report violations of South Carolina’s occupational health and safety statutes, rules or regulations.

South Carolina’s Whistleblower Protection Act for State Government Employees

South Carolina’s General Assembly enacted legislation called the “Employment Protection for Reports of Violations of State or Federal Regulation” or Law (the “Act”) to guard South Carolina state personnel from disciplinary actions or retaliation when they report violations of state or federal laws or maybe additional wrongdoing or regulations including punishment and fraud. Find out South Carolina Code § 8-27-10, et seq. The Act prohibits a South Carolina public system from lessening the compensation of, or dismissing, suspending or demoting, a state employee based on the employee’s submitting of a protected article of wrongdoing with an appropriate authority. S.C. Code § 8-27-20(A). The protected report have to 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 companies or even 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 political subdivision or governmental body of the State, including counties, municipalities, school districts, or special purpose or perhaps public program districts; (D) an organization, corporation, or agency supported in whole or maybe in part by public funds or perhaps expending public money; or perhaps, (E) a quasi-governmental body of the State and its political subdivisions. S.C. Code § 8-27-10(1).

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

An appropriate authority under the Act means whether (A) the public body which employs the whistleblower making the shielded report, or maybe (B) a federal, state, or local governmental body, company, or business keeping jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement, regulatory violations, professional ethics or conduct, or wrongdoing, this 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 manufactured to an entity apart from the public body employing the whistleblower generating the article, the Act usually requires that the employing public body be notified as soon as practicable by the entity that received the report. Id.

A SC whistleblower employee’s screened article under the Act is a written document alleging waste or perhaps wrongdoing that’s produced within sixty (sixty) days of the date the reporting employee first learns of the alleged wrongdoing, and which includes (a) the day of disclosure; (b) the title of the staff making the article; and, (c) the design 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 any behavior by a public body which results to substantial abuse, misuse, destruction, or loss of substantial public money or maybe public resources, including allegations that a public staff has intentionally violated federal or maybe state statutory law or maybe regulations or perhaps other political subdivision ordinances or regulations or a code of honesty, S.C. Code § 8-27-10(5). A violation and that is just technical and of a de minimus nature isn’t a “wrongdoing” under the Act. Id.

Rewards for SC Whistleblowers

Whenever a SC state employee blows the whistle on abusive or fraudulent acts or perhaps violations of federal, local laws or state, laws or rules, and also the protected report leads to savings of public resources because of the state of South Carolina, the whistleblower is worthy to a reward or maybe bounty under the Act. Nevertheless, the reward is incredibly limited. The provisions of the Act provide that a SC whistleblower is permitted to the lesser of Two 1000 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 article. The South Carolina State Budget and Control Board establishes the level of the financial reward which is for being given to the employee who is qualified for the incentive as a result of filing a secured 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, thirty one U.S.C. §§ 3729-3732 (the “FCA”). The FCA allows a qui tam whistleblower or perhaps relator to receive roughly thirty % of the total length of the government’s recovery against defendants who experience made fraudulent and false statements for charge to the United States. Some recent federal FCA recoveries by the U.S. Department of Justice have exceeded one dolars Billion Dollars.

Nonetheless, 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, then items labeled as involving “wrongdoing” must be referred as a suggestion to the application by the worker. A South Carolina government employee is permitted to just one reward either under the Act or under the State Employee Suggestion Program, at the employee’s option. Id.

Civil Remedies for SC Whistleblowers

If a South Carolina government staff suffers an adverse activity regarding work within one (one) year after getting regular filed a protected report that alleged wrongdoing, the personnel may institute a non jury civil action against the public body employer after exhausting all available grievance or other administrative remedies, along with such grievance/administrative proceedings have resulted in a finding that the personnel wouldn’t have been disciplined but 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 lessening in whistleblower’s compensation. The statutory remedies under the Act which the adversely effected employee may recover are (1) reinstatement to his or her former employment position; (two) lost wages; (3) actual damages never to go beyond 15 1000 Dollars ($15,000); as well as (4) practical attorney fees as based on the court. Id. However, an award of attorney’s costs has got a cap under the Act, and may not exceed Ten 1000 Dollars ($10,000) for virtually every trial and 5 1000 Dollars ($5,000) for virtually every appeal. Id.

At least 1 court has addressed the Act’s treatments with regard 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 personnel is confined to a recovery under the statutory cures of the Act when the personnel alleges a wrongful discharge exclusively on the cause of his whistleblowing. In Lawson, the court granted summary judgment against the employee since he could not point to a violation of other regulation, ethics rule, or any policy as a groundwork for his whistleblower action that amounted to “wrongdoing” under the Act. Id.

Unwanted Actions Based Upon Causes Independent of a Protected Report

In the event the ideal authority which received the report establishes the whistleblower employee’s report is unfounded and a simple technical violation and it is not done in optimal faith, the public body may take disciplinary action like termination as well as, notwithstanding the submitting of a report, a public body may perhaps dismiss, suspend, demote, and lessen the compensation of a worker for causes free from the filing of a protected article. Id. A South Carolina public body could also demand disciplinary sanctions against any direct line supervisory personnel that strike back against yet another employee for getting filed a good faith report.

Statute of Limitations

Under the Act, a whistleblower’s civil actions has to be commenced within just one (one) entire year after the accrual belonging to the cause of exhaustion or action of the available grievance or other administrative as well as judicial remedies, or such a lawsuit is forever barred. S.C. Code § 8-27-30(B).

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

South Carolina includes a separate whistleblower protection statute for workers who state violations of statutes, regulations or perhaps regulations regarding occupational safety and health. S.C. Code § 41- criminal defense lawyer near me -510. The protected activities consist of filing a complaint, instituting a proceeding, or perhaps testifying about OSHA violations. Any personnel who has been discharged or usually discriminated against by any person in violation of Section 41-15-510 has got the best to file a complaint with the South Carolina Commission of Labor alleging such discrimination. The SC Labor Commissioner shall cause investigation to be produced 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 must institute a law suit inside correct court of common pleas against that discriminating entity or human being. In any such steps, the court of common pleas has injunctive power to restrain such OSHA anti-discrimination violations, and even authority to get most correct relief including rehiring or reinstatement of employee to his or maybe her former location with back pay. S.C. Code § 41-15-520. Unlike the Act, the OSHA whistleblower protections are available to state government and private employees.

Conclusion

South Carolina whistleblowers who are employed by a South Carolina state government agency are guarded from negative employment actions after they timely report violations of state or federal laws or regulations or various other wrongdoing. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers and law firms which represent SC state federal whistleblowers need to understand the protections afforded to these workers that are fired, demoted, suspended or otherwise 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 review the administrative requirements needed to invoke the protections of the state’s anti-retaliation statute, the statutes of limitations, in addition to the remedial provisions afforded to such SC state government whistleblowers, to effectively counsel such clients. Thus , too, the employment legal professional should be conscious of the rights & curatives of equally private and South Carolina federal staff members that blow the whistle of violations of state OSHA statutes, laws or rules.

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