July 25, 2021

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

South Carolina whistleblowers that are used by a South Carolina state government agency are guarded from negative employment actions once they reasonable report violations of state or perhaps federal laws or regulations or any other wrongdoing. DUI lawyer , lawyers and law firms that represent SC state governing administration whistleblowers must be cognizant of the protections afforded to these workers that are fired, demoted, suspended or usually subjected to an adverse action in response to a report of fraud or any other wrongdoing by a public agency or one of its employees or officers. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers as well as law firms must additionally be conscious of the administrative requirements required to invoke the protections of the state’s anti retaliation statute, along with the comfort provisions afforded to some SC whistleblowers. There’s also any whistleblower protections for government and personal staff members that say violations of South Carolina’s occupational safety and health 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 Law or Regulation” (the “Act”) to guard South Carolina state personnel from disciplinary actions or retaliation once they report violations of state or federal laws or perhaps regulations or additional wrongdoing such as fraud and punishment. Find out 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 submitting of a protected report 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 that is good and not be considered a simple technical violation. Id. The Act does not affect private, non-government companies or perhaps 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, percentage, committee, agency, or authority; (C) a public or governmental body or political subdivision of the State, this includes counties, municipalities, school districts, or maybe specific purpose or public service districts; (D) an organization, corporation, or maybe agency 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 staff under the Act is a staff 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 possibly (A) the public body which employs the whistleblower making the safeguarded report, or maybe (B) a federal, state, or maybe local governmental body, company, or company having 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 created to an entity aside from the public body employing the whistleblower earning the report, the Act needs the employing public body be notified as soon as practicable by the entity that will received the report. Id.

A SC whistleblower employee’s shielded report under the Act is a written paper alleging waste or perhaps wrongdoing that’s produced within 60 (sixty) days of the day the reporting employee first learns of the alleged wrongdoing, and which includes (a) the particular date of disclosure; (b) the identity of the employee making the report; and, (c) the character of the wrongdoing and the date or perhaps range of dates on which the wrongdoing allegedly came about. S.C. Code § 8-27-10(4).

Pursuant to the Act, a reportable wrongdoing is some activity by a public body which causes loss, destruction, misuse, or substantial abuse of substantial public funds or public resources, which includes allegations that a public personnel has intentionally violated federal or perhaps state statutory law or perhaps regulations or maybe other political subdivision ordinances or regulations or a code of ethics, S.C. Code § 8-27-10(5). A violation which is merely technical or of 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 fraudulent or abusive acts or maybe violations of federal, state or local laws, rules or laws, and the protected report leads to savings of public resources for the state of South Carolina, the whistleblower is entitled to a reward or bounty under the Act. But, the reward is extremely limited. The provisions of the Act give that a SC whistleblower is permitted to the lesser of 2 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 report. The South Carolina State Budget and Control Board determines the level of the monetary incentive which is to be paid to the worker who’s qualified for the reward as a consequence of filing a secured report. See S.C. Code § 8-27-20(B). This incentive 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 as much as thirty % of the total length of the government’s healing against defendants diagnosed with made false and fraudulent statements for payment to the United States. Some current federal FCA recoveries by the U.S. Department of Justice have maxed out $1 Billion Dollars.

However, the Act doesn’t 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 software by the staff. A South Carolina government staff is entitled to just one single 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 staff suffers an adverse behavior relevant to employment within one (1) year after having timely filed a protected report which alleged wrongdoing, the worker may institute a non jury civil action against the public body employer after consuming all available grievance or any other administrative remedies, and such grievance/administrative proceedings have resulted in a finding that the employee wouldn’t have been disciplined but for the reporting of alleged wrongdoing. S.C. Code § 8-27-30(A). The adverse action or perhaps retaliations are able to consist of is dismissal, suspension from employment, demotion, or maybe a lessening in whistleblower’s compensation. The statutory remedies under the Act that the negatively effected employee may recover are (one) reinstatement to his or maybe her former work position; (2) lost wages; (three) actual damages to not go beyond 15 1000 Dollars ($15,000); and also (four) practical attorney fees as influenced 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 every trial and 5 1000 Dollars ($5,000) for just about any appeal. Id.

At least one court has addressed the Act’s treatments with admiration 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 staff is restricted to a recovery under the statutory cures 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 personnel because he couldn’t point to a violation of any policy, ethics rule, or other regulation as a foundation 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 ideal authority which received the report determines the whistleblower employee’s report is unfounded or a mere technical violation and it is not made in faith which is great, the public body may take disciplinary action which includes termination and, notwithstanding the filing of a report, a public body could dismiss, demote, suspend, or reduce the compensation of a worker for causes free from the filing of a protected report. Id. A South Carolina public body may also impose disciplinary sanctions against any immediate line supervisory workers who strike back against yet another employee for getting filed a great faith report.

Statute of Limitations

Under the Act, a whistleblower’s civil actions has to be commenced within just one (1) 365 days after the accrual on the cause of exhaustion or action of all available grievance as well as any other administrative and 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 includes a separate whistleblower protection statute for personnel who state violations of statutes, rules or perhaps laws regarding occupational safety and health. S.C. Code § 41-15-510. The protected activities normally include filing a complaint, instituting a proceeding, or testifying about OSHA violations. Any employee that has been discharged or otherwise 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 study to be produced as he or maybe she deems appropriate, as well as, if the Commissioner decides that anti discrimination provisions of Section 41-15-510 have already been violated, he must institute a law suit within the proper court of common pleas against that low discriminating human being or entity. In any such action, the court of common pleas has injunctive authority to restrain such OSHA anti-discrimination violations, as well as authority to order almost all proper relief including rehiring or reinstatement of worker to his or her former location 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 that are employed by a South Carolina state government agency are shielded from unwanted employment actions after they timely report violations of state or maybe federal laws or maybe regulations or some other wrongdoing. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers as well as law firms who represent SC state governing administration whistleblowers need to understand the protections afforded to these staff members that are fired, demoted, suspended or maybe usually subjected to an adverse action in response to a report of fraud or other wrongdoing by a public agency or even one of its employees or officers. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers and law firms ought to evaluate the management requirements essential 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 effectively guide such clients. Thus , as well, the employment lawyer has to be conscious of the rights & curatives of both private and South Carolina governing administration personnel who blow the whistle of violations of state OSHA statutes, rules or laws.

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