South Carolina whistleblowers who are employed by a South Carolina state government agency are protected from unwanted employment actions once they appropriate report violations of state or federal laws or maybe other wrongdoing or regulations. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers and also law firms which represent SC state governing administration whistleblowers need to be cognizant of the protections afforded to these staff that are fired, demoted, suspended or maybe normally subjected to an adverse action in response to a report of fraud or some other wrongdoing by a public agency or one of its officers or employees. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers as well as law firms must additionally be mindful of the management requirements essential to invoke the protections of the state’s anti-retaliation statute, as well as the help provisions afforded to some SC whistleblowers. Additionally, there are some whistleblower protections for government and private employees that say violations of South Carolina’s occupational safety and health statutes, regulations 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 maybe Federal Law or Regulation” (the “Act”) to safeguard South Carolina state staff from disciplinary actions or retaliation when they report violations of state or perhaps federal laws or additional wrongdoing or regulations including punishment 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 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 have to be made by the SC whistleblower in faith which is good and never be considered a mere technical violation. Id. The Act doesn’t relate 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 authority; (C) a public or governmental body or political subdivision of the State, including counties, municipalities, school districts, or specific purpose or maybe public system districts; (D) an organization, corporation, or maybe company supported in full or perhaps 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 an employee of any South Carolina public body entity, typically excluding those state executives whose appointment or 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 protected report, or perhaps (B) a federal, state, or perhaps local governmental body, company, or maybe business keeping jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement, regulatory violations, professional ethics or conduct, and wrongdoing, including 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 that 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 document alleging waste or perhaps wrongdoing that’s made within 60 (60) 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 personnel making the report; and, (c) the nature 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 action by a public body and that causes loss, destruction, misuse, or substantial abuse of substantial public funds or maybe public places online, which includes allegations that a public employee has intentionally violated federal or perhaps state statutory law or maybe regulations or perhaps various other political subdivision ordinances or maybe regulations or a code of honesty, S.C. Code § 8-27-10(5). A violation which is just technical and associated with 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 abusive or fraudulent acts or violations of federal, local laws or state, rules or laws, and also the protected report leads to savings of public money because of the state of South Carolina, the whistleblower is worthy to a reward or bounty under the Act. Nevertheless, the reward is very limited. The provisions of the Act give that a SC whistleblower is worthy to the lesser of Two 1000 Dollars ($2,000) or perhaps twenty five percent (25 %) of the estimated cash saved by the state in the first year of the whistleblowing employee’s article. The South Carolina State Budget and Control Board establishes the quantity of the financial incentive which is for being paid to the staff who is eligible 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 maybe relator to receive about thirty % of the total amount of the government’s healing against defendants diagnosed with made false and fraudulent claims for fee to the United States. Some current federal FCA recoveries by the U.S. Department of Justice have surpassed $1 Billion Dollars.
But, 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 recognized as involving “wrongdoing” must be referred as a suggestion towards the application by the personnel. A South Carolina government worker is permitted to one 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 worker suffers an adverse activity relevant to work within one (one) year after having 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 other administrative remedies, and such grievance/administrative proceedings have resulted in a finding that the staff wouldn’t have been disciplined but for the reporting of alleged wrongdoing. S.C. Code § 8-27-30(A). The unwanted action or maybe retaliations are able to consist of is dismissal, suspension from employment, demotion, or perhaps a reduction in whistleblower’s compensation. The statutory remedies under the Act that the negatively effected employee may recover are (1) reinstatement to his or maybe her former employment position; (two) lost wages; (three) actual damages to not go beyond 15 1000 Dollars ($15,000); as well as (4) sensible attorney fees as influenced by the court. Id. But, an award of attorney’s charges has a cap under the Act, and may not exceed Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000) for any trial and 5 1000 Dollars ($5,000) for just about any appeal. Id.
At least 1 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. criminal defense lawyer near me held that when a whistleblower personnel is confined to a recovery under the statutory cures of the Act when the staff alleges a wrongful discharge only on the justification of his whistleblowing. In Lawson, the court granted summary judgment against the staff because he could not point to some violation of other regulation, ethics rule, or any policy as a groundwork for his whistleblower action which amounted to “wrongdoing” under the Act. Id.
Negative Actions Based Upon Causes Outside of a Protected Report
In the event the ideal authority which received the report decides the whistleblower employee’s report is unfounded or a simple technical violation and is not made in faith which is great, the public body could take disciplinary action including termination as well as, notwithstanding the submitting of a report, a public body may dismiss, suspend, demote, and decrease the compensation of a staff for causes independent of the filing of a protected article. Id. A South Carolina public body might also impose disciplinary sanctions against any one on one line supervisory employees that strike back against yet another employee for getting filed a great faith report.
Statute of Limitations
Under the Act, a whistleblower’s civil action has to be commenced within just one (1) annum after the accrual on the cause of exhaustion or action of all the available grievance and/or other administrative along with judicial remedies, 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 who state violations of statutes, policies or perhaps regulations regarding occupational health and safety. S.C. Code § 41-15-510. The protected activities normally include filing a complaint, instituting a proceeding, or perhaps testifying about OSHA violations. Any kind of personnel who has been discharged or normally discriminated against by anybody in violation of Section 41-15-510 contains 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 made as he or she deems appropriate, along with, if the Commissioner establishes that anti discrimination provisions of Section 41-15-510 are already violated, he should institute a law suit inside appropriate court of common pleas against such a low discriminating individual or entity. In any that action, the court of common pleas has injunctive power to restrain such OSHA anti-discrimination violations, and even authority to purchase all proper relief like reinstatement or rehiring of worker to his or her former place with back pay. S.C. Code § 41-15-520. Unlike the Act, the OSHA whistleblower protections are offered to state private employees and government.
South Carolina whistleblowers that are employed by a South Carolina state government agency are protected from adverse employment actions once they reasonable report violations of state or perhaps federal laws or regulations or some other wrongdoing. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers as well as law firms who represent SC state federal whistleblowers have to know the protections afforded to these staff members who are fired, demoted, suspended or perhaps usually subjected to an adverse action in reaction to a report of fraud or any other wrongdoing by a public agency or perhaps one of its officers or employees. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers as well as law firms must examine the management requirements necessary to invoke the protections of the state’s anti-retaliation statute, the statutes of limits, along with the remedial provisions afforded to such SC state government whistleblowers, in order to effectively advise such clients. Thus, too, the employment legal professional needs to be aware of the rights & cures of equally private and South Carolina federal employees who blow the whistle of violations of state OSHA statutes, polices or rules.