South Carolina whistleblowers who are used by a South Carolina state government agency are protected from unwanted employment actions after they reasonable report violations of state or perhaps federal laws or some other wrongdoing or regulations. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers and law firms who represent SC state government whistleblowers need to be conscious of the protections afforded to these personnel that are fired, demoted, suspended or otherwise subjected to an adverse action in response to a report of fraud or other wrongdoing by a public agency or one of its officers or employees. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers as well as law firms must also be cognizant of the administrative requirements required to invoke the protections of the state’s anti retaliation statute, as well as the comfort provisions afforded to such SC whistleblowers. There are also any whistleblower protections for government and personal workers who say violations of South Carolina’s occupational safety and health statutes, polices 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 Federal Regulation” or Law (the “Act”) to guard South Carolina state workers from retaliation or disciplinary actions once they report violations of state or federal laws or maybe regulations or additional wrongdoing such as misuse and fraud. See South Carolina Code § 8-27-10, et seq. The Act prohibits a South Carolina public human body from lessening the compensation of, or dismissing, suspending or demoting, a state employee determined by the employee’s filing 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 does not relate 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 maybe authority; (C) a public or political subdivision or governmental body of the State, this includes counties, municipalities, school districts, or maybe particular purpose or perhaps public program districts; (D) an organization, corporation, or company supported in whole or maybe in part by public money or even expending public funds; or perhaps, (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 staff of any South Carolina public body entity, typically excluding those state executives whose appointment or maybe employment is subject to Senate confirmation. S.C. Code § 8-27-10(2).
An appropriate authority under the Act means possibly (A) the public body which usually employs the whistleblower making the shielded report, or (B) a federal, state, or maybe local governmental body, agency, or perhaps business keeping jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement, regulatory violations, professional ethics or conduct, or wrongdoing, this includes but not small 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 other than the public body employing the whistleblower generating the article, the Act calls for the employing public body be notified as soon as practicable by the entity which received the report. Id.
A SC whistleblower employee’s protected article under the Act is a written paper alleging waste or maybe wrongdoing which is manufactured within 60 (sixty) days of the particular date the reporting employee first learns of the alleged wrongdoing, and which includes (a) the date of disclosure; (b) the name of the personnel making the report; and, (c) the dynamics of the date and 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 behavior by a public body which results to substantial abuse, misuse, destruction, or loss of substantial public money or maybe public places online, including allegations that a public personnel has intentionally violated federal or perhaps state statutory law or regulations or other political subdivision ordinances or perhaps regulations or perhaps a code of ethics, S.C. Code § 8-27-10(5). A violation which is just technical or of a de minimus nature is not a “wrongdoing” under the Act. Id.
Rewards for SC Whistleblowers
When a SC state staff blows the whistle on fraudulent or abusive acts or perhaps violations of federal, local laws or state, laws or rules, moreover the protected report leads to savings of public money due to the state of South Carolina, the whistleblower is worthy to a reward or maybe bounty under the Act. But, the reward is extremely limited. The provisions of the Act provide that a SC whistleblower is permitted to the lesser of 2 Thousand Dollars ($2,000) or maybe twenty-five % (twenty five %) of the estimated cash 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 level of the monetary incentive which is for being given to the personnel who’s qualified for the reward as a consequence of filing a bolstered report. See S.C. Code § 8-27-20(B). This treat is quite 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 about thirty % of the total amount of the government’s recovery against defendants who have made false and fraudulent 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.
However, 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 identified as involving “wrongdoing” must be referred as a suggestion on the application by the personnel. A South Carolina government personnel is permitted to one reward both 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 authorities personnel suffers an adverse behavior related to work within one (one) year after getting reasonable filed a protected report that alleged wrongdoing, the staff might institute a non jury civil action against the public body employer after using up all available grievance or any other administrative remedies, and such grievance/administrative proceedings have generated a finding that the staff 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 remedies under the Act which the adversely effected employee may recover are (one) reinstatement to his or maybe her former employment position; (2) lost wages; (3) actual damages not to go beyond Fifteen Thousand Dollars ($15,000); and also (4) practical attorney fees as determined by the court. Id. Nonetheless, an award of attorney’s fees has got a cap under the Act, and may not exceed 10 Thousand Dollars ($10,000) for any trial and 5 1000 Dollars ($5,000) for just about any appeal. Id.
At least one court has resolved 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 confined to a recovery under the statutory cures of the Act when the employee alleges a wrongful discharge solely on the justification of his whistleblowing. In Lawson, the court granted summary judgment against the worker as he couldn’t 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.
Unwanted Actions Based Upon Causes Independent of a Protected Report
In the event the ideal authority which received the report decides the whistleblower employee’s report is unfounded and a simple technical violation and is also not manufactured in faith which is optimal, the public body could take disciplinary action which includes termination and also, notwithstanding the submitting of a report, a public body may perhaps 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 might also force disciplinary sanctions against any one on one line supervisory workers that strike back against another employee for getting filed a great faith report.
Statute of Limitations
Under the Act, a whistleblower’s civil actions must be commenced within one (one) season after the accrual belonging to the cause of action or exhaustion of all the available grievance or any other administrative along with judicial remedies, or such a lawsuit is permanently barred. S.C. Code § 8-27-30(B).
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Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”) Whistleblower Protections
South Carolina contains a separate whistleblower protection statute for personnel that state violations of statutes, policies or laws regarding occupational health and safety. S.C. Code § 41-15-510. The protected activities consist of filing a complaint, instituting a proceeding, or perhaps testifying about OSHA violations. Any kind of personnel that has been discharged and normally discriminated against by anyone in violation of Section 41-15-510 possesses the right to file a complaint with the South Carolina Commission of Labor alleging such discrimination. The SC Labor Commissioner shall result in investigation to be produced as he or perhaps she deems appropriate, and, if the Commissioner establishes which anti discrimination provisions of Section 41-15-510 have already been violated, he should institute a law suit within the appropriate court of common pleas against this low discriminating entity or individual. In any that low steps, the court of common pleas has injunctive authority to restrain such OSHA anti discrimination violations, as well as authority to purchase almost all correct relief such as rehiring or reinstatement of employee to his or perhaps her former place with back pay. S.C. Code § 41-15-520. Unlike the Act, the OSHA whistleblower protections are available to state government and personal employees.
South Carolina whistleblowers that are employed by a South Carolina state government agency are shielded from adverse employment actions after they reasonable report violations of state or maybe federal laws or other wrongdoing or regulations. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers and law firms who represent SC state government whistleblowers need to understand the protections afforded to these employees that are fired, demoted, suspended or maybe usually 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 as well as law firms must evaluate the management 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, so as to correctly counsel such clients. Hence , too, the employment lawyer must be conscious of the rights and cures of both South and private Carolina federal workers who actually blow the whistle of violations of state OSHA statutes, rules or regulations.