South Carolina whistleblowers that are employed by a South Carolina state government agency are protected from unwanted employment actions when they appropriate report violations of state or perhaps federal laws or other wrongdoing or regulations. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers and also law firms which represent SC state government whistleblowers must be aware of the protections afforded to these staff members that are fired, demoted, suspended or perhaps normally subjected to an adverse action in response to a report of fraud or any other wrongdoing by a public agency or even one of its officers or employees. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers and law firms should also be mindful of the administrative requirements required to invoke the protections of the state’s anti retaliation statute, in addition to the relief provisions afforded to certain SC whistleblowers. There are also any whistleblower protections for government and personal workers who say violations of South Carolina’s occupational health and safety statutes, polices or rules.
South Carolina’s Whistleblower Protection Act for State Government Employees
South Carolina’s General Assembly enacted legislation known as the “Employment Protection for Reports of Violations of State or Federal Law or Regulation” (the “Act”) to protect South Carolina state staff from disciplinary actions or retaliation once they report violations of state or federal laws or regulations or additional wrongdoing including punishment and fraud. See South Carolina Code § 8-27-10, et seq. The Act prohibits a South Carolina public entire body from lowering the compensation of, or dismissing, suspending or demoting, a state employee based on the employee’s submitting 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 faith that is good and not be described as a mere technical violation. Id. The Act does not apply to private, non government employers 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 special purpose or maybe public system districts; (D) an organization, corporation, or agency supported in whole or maybe in part by public funds or 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 personnel under the Act is an employee of any South Carolina public body entity, typically excluding those state executives whose appointment or perhaps employment 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 usually employs the whistleblower making the safeguarded report, or perhaps (B) a federal, state, or regional governmental body, company, or maybe company having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement, regulatory violations, professional conduct or ethics, or wrongdoing, including but not limited 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 besides the public body employing the whistleblower making the article, the Act calls for the employing public body be informed as soon as practicable by the entity which often received the report. Id.
A SC whistleblower employee’s protected report under the Act is a written paper alleging waste or maybe wrongdoing that is made within 60 (60) days of the particular date the reporting employee first learns of the alleged wrongdoing, and which includes (a) the date of disclosure; (b) the title of the worker making the report; and, (c) the nature of the wrongdoing along with the date or maybe 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 activity by a public body and that results in loss, destruction, misuse, or substantial abuse of substantial public money or perhaps public places online, which includes allegations that a public worker has intentionally violated federal or maybe state statutory law or maybe regulations or maybe other political subdivision ordinances or maybe regulations or maybe a code of ethics, S.C. Code § 8-27-10(5). A violation which is merely technical or associated with a de minimus nature isn’t a “wrongdoing” under the Act. Id.
Rewards for SC Whistleblowers
Whenever a SC state worker blows the whistle on abusive or fraudulent acts or maybe violations of federal, local laws or state, rules or polices, and the protected report leads to savings of public money for the state of South Carolina, the whistleblower is worthy to a reward or bounty under the Act. Nonetheless, the reward is extremely limited. The provisions of the Act deliver that a SC whistleblower is permitted to the lesser of Two 1000 Dollars ($2,000) or perhaps twenty-five % (25 %) of the believed cash saved by the state in the first year of the whistleblowing employee’s report. The South Carolina State Budget and Control Board determines the level of the financial incentive which is being paid to the worker who’s qualified for the treat as a consequence of filing a protected report. See S.C. Code § 8-27-20(B). This treat is very 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 retrieval against defendants who have made false and fraudulent claims for charge to the United States. Some current federal FCA recoveries by the U.S. Department of Justice have maxed out 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, now items recognized as involving “wrongdoing” must be referred as a suggestion to the software by the worker. A South Carolina government employee is worthy to only one reward possibly under the Act or perhaps 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 action regarding employment within one (1) year after obtaining appropriate filed a protected report which alleged wrongdoing, the personnel might institute a non jury civil action against the public body employer after consuming all available grievance or other administrative remedies, and such grievance/administrative proceedings have generated a finding that the staff wouldn’t have been disciplined but for the reporting of alleged wrongdoing. S.C. Code § 8- criminal defense attorney near me -30(A). The unwanted action or maybe retaliations are able to include is dismissal, suspension from employment, demotion, or a reduction in whistleblower’s compensation. The statutory cures under the Act which the adversely effected employee could recover are (1) reinstatement to his or her former work position; (two) lost wages; (3) actual damages not to go beyond Fifteen 1000 Dollars ($15,000); and (4) sensible attorney fees as determined by the court. Id. But, an award of attorney’s charges has a cap under the Act, and wouldn’t exceed Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000) for virtually every trial and Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000) for almost any appeal. Id.
At least 1 court has resolved the Act’s remedies with respect 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 worker is confined to a recovery under the statutory treatments of the Act when the personnel alleges a wrongful discharge exclusively on the grounds of his whistleblowing. In Lawson, the court granted summary judgment against the staff since he could not point to some violation of other regulation, ethics rule, or any policy as a basis for his whistleblower action that amounted to “wrongdoing” under the Act. Id.
Adverse Actions Based Upon Causes Outside of a Protected Report
In the event the appropriate authority which received the report decides the whistleblower employee’s article is unfounded and a mere technical violation and is also not done in optimal faith, the public body might take disciplinary action including termination and, notwithstanding the filing of a report, a public body could dismiss, suspend, demote, and reduce the compensation of a worker for causes liberated from the filing of a protected report. Id. A South Carolina public body might also impose disciplinary sanctions against any strong line supervisory staff members that hit back against another employee for acquiring filed a good faith report.
Statute of Limitations
Under the Act, a whistleblower’s civil action must be commenced within a single (1) year after the accrual on the root cause of exhaustion or action of all available grievance or any other administrative along with judicial cures, or such a lawsuit is permanently barred. S.C. Code § 8-27-30(B).
Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”) Whistleblower Protections
South Carolina features a separate whistleblower protection statute for employees who report violations of statutes, policies or maybe polices 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 personnel who has been discharged or usually discriminated against by anyone in violation of Section 41-15-510 possesses 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 made as he or perhaps she deems appropriate, and, if the Commissioner decides which anti discrimination provisions of Section 41-15-510 are already violated, he must institute a law suit within the proper court of common pleas against such a low discriminating man or woman or entity. In any this low move, the court of common pleas has injunctive authority to restrain such OSHA anti discrimination violations, and even authority to purchase all proper relief like rehiring or reinstatement of staff to his or 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.
South Carolina whistleblowers that are used by a South Carolina state government agency are protected from negative employment actions when they appropriate report violations of state or federal laws or maybe any other wrongdoing or regulations. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers as well as law firms who represent SC state government whistleblowers need to understand 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 other wrongdoing by a public agency or even one of its officers or employees. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers as well as law firms should examine the management requirements required to invoke the protections of the state’s anti-retaliation statute, the statutes of boundaries, along with the remedial provisions afforded to such SC state government whistleblowers, in order to properly counsel such clients. Hence , too, the employment lawyer must be cognizant of the rights & remedies of equally private and South Carolina government personnel which blow the whistle of violations of state OSHA statutes, laws or rules.