South Carolina whistleblowers who are employed by a South Carolina state government agency are guarded from negative employment actions when they appropriate report violations of state or federal laws or regulations or any other wrongdoing. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers and also law firms who represent SC state federal whistleblowers have to be aware of the protections afforded to these personnel who are fired, demoted, suspended or otherwise subjected to an adverse action in reaction to a report of fraud or other wrongdoing by a public agency or perhaps one of its officers or employees. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers as well as law firms should additionally be conscious of the management requirements required to invoke the protections of the state’s anti retaliation statute, in addition to the relief provisions afforded to certain SC whistleblowers. In addition there are a whistleblower protections for private staff and government that report violations of South Carolina’s occupational safety and health statutes, rules or laws.
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 maybe Federal Regulation” or Law (the “Act”) to shield South Carolina state staff from disciplinary actions or retaliation when they report violations of state or perhaps federal laws or perhaps regulations or other wrongdoing such as misuse and fraud. See 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 according to 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 which is good and never be considered a simple technical violation. Id. The Act does not apply to private, non-government employers or perhaps 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, commission, committee, agency, or maybe authority; (C) a public or governmental body or political subdivision of the State, including counties, municipalities, school districts, or maybe particular purpose or public program districts; (D) an organization, corporation, or perhaps agency supported in whole or maybe in part by public money 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, generally excluding those state executives whose appointment or perhaps employment is governed by 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 safeguarded report, or maybe (B) a federal, state, or maybe local governmental body, agency, or maybe organization keeping jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement, regulatory violations, professional conduct or ethics, 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 made to an entity besides the public body employing the whistleblower earning the report, the Act calls for the employing public body be notified as soon as practicable by the entity which often received the report. Id.
A SC whistleblower employee’s screened article under the Act is a written document alleging waste or maybe wrongdoing which is made within 60 (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 wrongdoing along with the date or 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 any action by a public body and that results to substantial abuse, misuse, destruction, or loss of substantial public money or maybe public places online, this includes allegations that a public staff has intentionally violated federal or state statutory law or perhaps regulations or various other political subdivision ordinances or perhaps 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 isn’t a “wrongdoing” under the Act. Id.
Rewards for SC Whistleblowers
When a SC state worker blows the whistle on abusive or fraudulent acts or perhaps violations of federal, local laws or state, rules or laws, and the protected report results in savings of public funds for the state of South Carolina, the whistleblower is permitted to a reward or perhaps bounty under the Act. But, the reward is very limited. The provisions of the Act offer that a SC whistleblower is permitted to the lesser of 2 1000 Dollars ($2,000) or twenty-five % (25 %) 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 can help determine the volume of the financial incentive that is for being given to the personnel who is eligible for the treat as a consequence of filing a protected report. See S.C. Code § 8-27-20(B). This incentive 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 maybe relator to receive up to 30 % of the total length of the government’s healing against defendants who have made false and fraudulent promises for charge to the United States. Some recent federal FCA recoveries by the U.S. Department of Justice have surpassed one dolars Billion Dollars.
Nevertheless, the Act does not 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 known as a suggestion on the software by the employee. A South Carolina government staff is permitted to one reward possibly 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 worker suffers an adverse activity regarding work within one (1) year after getting regular filed a protected report which alleged wrongdoing, the worker may institute a non-jury civil action against the public body employer after using up all available grievance or other management remedies, along with such grievance/administrative proceedings have generated a finding that the worker wouldn’t have been disciplined but just for the reporting of alleged wrongdoing. S.C. Code § 8-27-30(A). The adverse action or retaliations are able to include is dismissal, suspension from employment, demotion, or maybe a reduction in whistleblower’s compensation. The statutory remedies under the Act that the negatively effected employee could recover are (one) reinstatement to his or her former work position; (two) lost wages; (three) actual damages to not exceed Fifteen Thousand Dollars ($15,000); and (4) sensible attorney fees as influenced by the court. Id. Nonetheless, an award of attorney’s charges has a cap under the Act, and may not exceed Ten 1000 Dollars ($10,000) for any trial and 5 1000 Dollars ($5,000) for virtually every appeal. Id.
At least one court has resolved the Act’s remedies 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 worker is limited to a recovery under the statutory treatments 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 personnel as he couldn’t 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.
Negative Actions Based Upon Causes Independent of a Protected Report
In the event the appropriate authority which received the report determines the whistleblower employee’s article is unfounded or a simple technical violation and it is not done in faith which is great, the public body may take disciplinary action including termination and, notwithstanding the filing of a report, a public body might dismiss, demote, suspend, and decrease the compensation of an employee for causes independent of the filing of a protected report. Id. act 22 lawyer might also force disciplinary sanctions against any one on one line supervisory workers who retaliate against yet another employee for obtaining filed a good faith report.
Statute of Limitations
Under the Act, a whistleblower’s civil action has to be commenced within one (one) entire year after the accrual of the cause of exhaustion or action of all the available grievance and/or other administrative as well as 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 personnel which report violations of statutes, rules or perhaps regulations regarding occupational safety and health. S.C. Code § 41-15-510. The protected activities consist of filing a complaint, instituting a proceeding, or even testifying about OSHA violations. Any personnel that has been discharged or otherwise discriminated against by anybody in violation of Section 41-15-510 has 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 made as he or she deems appropriate, and, if the Commissioner determines that anti discrimination provisions of Section 41-15-510 are violated, he should institute a law suit within the correct court of common pleas against that low discriminating individual or entity. In any that move, the court of common pleas has injunctive power to restrain such OSHA anti-discrimination violations, and even authority to purchase most appropriate relief like reinstatement or rehiring of worker to his or maybe her former position with back pay. S.C. Code § 41-15-520. Unlike the Act, the OSHA whistleblower protections are designed to state private employees and government.
South Carolina whistleblowers that are used by a South Carolina state government agency are protected from adverse employment actions once they regular report violations of state or federal laws or perhaps regulations or other wrongdoing. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers and also law firms who represent SC state governing administration whistleblowers have to know the protections afforded to these personnel who are fired, demoted, suspended or perhaps 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 officers or employees. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers as well as law firms must review the administrative requirements essential to invoke the protections of the state’s anti retaliation statute, the statutes of boundaries, in addition to the remedial provisions afforded to such SC state government whistleblowers, to be able to effectively counsel such clients. Thus , as well, the employment lawyer must be mindful of the rights and cures of both South and private Carolina government personnel which blow the whistle of violations of state OSHA statutes, polices or rules.