Southerly Carolina’s Whistleblower Protections — A Review for SOUTH CAROLINA Legal professionals, Lawyers & Laws Firms

South Carolina whistleblowers who are employed by a South Carolina state government agency are guarded from unwanted employment actions after they appropriate report violations of state or federal laws or maybe other wrongdoing or regulations. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers and law firms who represent SC state federal whistleblowers need to be conscious of the protections afforded to these personnel who are fired, demoted, suspended or perhaps normally 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 must additionally be mindful of the administrative requirements essential to invoke the protections of the state’s anti-retaliation statute, along with the help provisions afforded to such SC whistleblowers. In addition there are any whistleblower protections for government and personal personnel that claim violations of South Carolina’s occupational health and safety statutes, rules or polices.

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 perhaps Federal Law or Regulation” (the “Act”) to guard South Carolina state staff from disciplinary actions or retaliation once they report violations of state or perhaps federal laws or maybe other wrongdoing or regulations such as abuse and fraud. Find out South Carolina Code § 8-27-10, et seq. The Act prohibits a South Carolina public entire body from reducing 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 must be made by the SC whistleblower in faith which is good and never be described as a mere technical violation. Id. The Act doesn’t relate to private, non-government companies 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 maybe unique purpose or maybe public program districts; (D) an organization, corporation, or perhaps agency supported in full or maybe in part by public funds as well as 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 staff under the Act is a staff of any South Carolina public body entity, typically excluding those state executives whose appointment or maybe employment is at the mercy of 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 safeguarded report, or (B) a federal, state, or perhaps regional governmental body, company, or company having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement, regulatory violations, professional conduct or ethics, 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 earning the report, the Act needs that the employing public body be notified as soon as practicable by the entity that received the report. Id.

A SC whistleblower employee’s protected report under the Act is a written document 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 personnel making the article; and, (c) the dynamics of the wrongdoing along with the date or range of dates on which the wrongdoing allegedly occurred. S.C. Code § 8-27-10(4).

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Pursuant to the Act, a reportable wrongdoing is some behavior by a public body and that causes substantial abuse, misuse, destruction, or loss of substantial public money or maybe public places online, which includes allegations that a public worker has intentionally violated federal or perhaps state statutory law or maybe regulations or maybe other political subdivision ordinances or maybe regulations or perhaps a code of ethics, S.C. Code § 8-27-10(5). A violation and that 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 personnel blows the whistle on abusive or fraudulent acts or maybe violations of federal, state or local laws, rules or regulations, in addition the protected report results in savings of public resources due to the state of South Carolina, the whistleblower is worthy to a reward or maybe bounty under the Act. Nonetheless, the reward is incredibly limited. The provisions of the Act provide that a SC whistleblower is entitled to the lesser of Two 1000 Dollars ($2,000) or twenty-five % (25 %) of the believed 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 that is to become given to the worker who’s qualified for the treat 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 up to thirty % of the total amount of the government’s healing against defendants who experience made false and fraudulent statements for payment to the United States. Some recent federal FCA recoveries by the U.S. Department of Justice have maxed out one dolars Billion Dollars.

However, the Act doesn’t supersede the State Employee Suggestion Program, and if a whistleblower employee’s agency participates in the State Employee Suggestion Program, now items labeled as involving “wrongdoing” must be referred as a suggestion on the application by the personnel. A South Carolina government staff is entitled to just one single reward either under the Act or perhaps under the State Employee Suggestion Program, at the employee’s choice. Id.

Civil Remedies for SC Whistleblowers

If a South Carolina government employee suffers an adverse action regarding work within one (1) year after getting reasonable filed a protected report that alleged wrongdoing, the personnel might institute a non jury civil action against the public body employer after exhausting all available grievance or any other administrative remedies, along with such grievance/administrative proceedings have generated a finding that the employee would not have been disciplined but just for the reporting of alleged wrongdoing. S.C. Code § 8-27-30(A). The unwanted action or retaliations can consist of is dismissal, suspension from employment, demotion, or maybe a reduction in whistleblower’s compensation. The statutory cures under the Act that the negatively effected employee may well recover are (1) reinstatement to his or her former employment position; (two) lost wages; (three) actual damages to not exceed Fifteen Thousand Dollars ($15,000); and (4) practical attorney fees as determined by the court. Id. Nevertheless, an award of attorney’s fees has a cap under the Act, and wouldn’t exceed 10 1000 Dollars ($10,000) for virtually any trial and Five 1000 Dollars ($5,000) for almost any appeal. Id.

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

Negative Actions Based Upon Causes Independent of a Protected Report

In the event the best suited authority which received the report decides the whistleblower employee’s article is unfounded or a mere technical violation and is not manufactured in faith that is great, the public body may take disciplinary action including termination as well as, notwithstanding the filing of a report, a public body might dismiss, demote, suspend, or decrease the compensation of a worker for causes liberated from 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 who hit back against yet another employee for having filed a good faith report.

Statute of Limitations

Under the Act, a whistleblower’s civil actions has to be commenced within just one (1) calendar year after the accrual of the cause of exhaustion or action of all the available grievance and/or other administrative and judicial cures, or such a lawsuit is forever barred. S.C. Code § 8-27-30(B).

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

South Carolina features a separate whistleblower protection statute for staff members which state violations of statutes, policies or maybe regulations regarding occupational safety and health. S.C. Code § 41-15-510. The protected activities include filing a complaint, instituting a proceeding, or testifying about OSHA violations. Any kind of employee who has been discharged and usually discriminated against by anyone 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 she deems appropriate, along with, if the Commissioner determines that anti-discrimination provisions of Section 41-15-510 are already violated, he must institute a law suit in the proper court of common pleas against that low discriminating entity or person. In any such a low action, the court of common pleas has injunctive authority to restrain such OSHA anti discrimination violations, and also authority to get most correct relief including rehiring or reinstatement of worker to his or perhaps the former situation of her with back pay. S.C. Code § 41-15-520. Unlike the Act, the OSHA whistleblower protections are designed to state government and private employees.

Conclusion

South Carolina whistleblowers who are utilized by a South Carolina state government agency are guarded from adverse employment actions when they reasonable report violations of state or maybe federal laws or regulations or some other wrongdoing. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers as well as law firms who represent SC state government whistleblowers need to know the protections afforded to these employees that are fired, demoted, suspended or perhaps usually subjected to an adverse action in response to a report of other wrongdoing or fraud by a public agency or one of its employees or officers. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers as well as law firms ought to overview the management requirements needed to invoke the protections of the state’s anti-retaliation statute, the statutes of limitations, as well as the remedial provisions afforded to such SC state government whistleblowers, to properly counsel such clients. Thus , too, the employment attorney needs to be aware of the rights & curatives of equally private and South Carolina federal employees who actually blow the whistle of violations of state OSHA statutes, polices or rules.

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