South Carolina whistleblowers who are used by a South Carolina state government agency are shielded from adverse employment actions after they regular report violations of state or federal laws or maybe regulations or other wrongdoing. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers and law firms which represent SC state federal whistleblowers must be mindful of the protections afforded to these personnel who are fired, demoted, suspended or maybe usually subjected to an adverse action in response 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 and also law firms need to additionally be aware of the management requirements required to invoke the protections of the state’s anti retaliation statute, in addition to the comfort provisions afforded to certain SC whistleblowers. In addition there are a whistleblower protections for personal staff and government that claim 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 called the “Employment Protection for Reports of Violations of State or perhaps Federal Regulation” or Law (the “Act”) to safeguard South Carolina state personnel from disciplinary actions or retaliation when they report violations of state or maybe federal laws or regulations or other wrongdoing including misuse and fraud. Find out South Carolina Code § 8-27-10, et seq. The Act prohibits a South Carolina public human body from reducing the compensation of, or dismissing, demoting or suspending, 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 need to be made by the SC whistleblower in faith that is good and never be described as a mere technical violation. Id. The Act doesn’t 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, percentage, committee, agency, or perhaps authority; (C) a public or political subdivision or governmental body of the State, this includes counties, municipalities, school districts, or maybe unique purpose or public service districts; (D) an organization, corporation, or agency supported in whole or maybe in part by public money or perhaps 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, generally excluding those state executives whose appointment or perhaps work is subject to Senate confirmation. S.C. Code § 8-27-10(2).
An appropriate authority under the Act means either (A) the public body that employs the whistleblower making the screened report, or maybe (B) a federal, state, or perhaps regional governmental body, agency, or company having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement, regulatory violations, professional conduct or ethics, or wrongdoing, which includes 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 made to an entity apart from the public body employing the whistleblower generating the article, the Act calls for the employing public body be informed as soon as practicable by the entity which received the report. Id.
A SC whistleblower employee’s screened report under the Act is a written paper alleging waste or perhaps wrongdoing that is produced within sixty (sixty) days of the particular date the reporting employee first learns of the alleged wrongdoing, and which includes (a) the particular date of disclosure; (b) the title of the worker making the report; and, (c) the dynamics of the date as well as the wrongdoing 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 any activity by a public body and that results in substantial abuse, misuse, destruction, or loss of substantial public funds or perhaps public online resources, which includes allegations that a public personnel has intentionally violated federal or state statutory law or maybe regulations or other political subdivision ordinances or maybe regulations or a code of ethics, S.C. Code § 8-27-10(5). A violation which is only technical or associated with a de minimus nature isn’t a “wrongdoing” under the Act. Id.
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When a SC state staff blows the whistle on fraudulent or abusive acts or maybe violations of federal, local laws or state, polices or rules, in addition the protected report results in savings of public resources due to the state of South Carolina, the whistleblower is permitted to a reward or perhaps bounty under the Act. However, the reward is very limited. The provisions of the Act deliver that a SC whistleblower is worthy to the lesser of Two Thousand Dollars ($2,000) or maybe twenty-five % (25 %) of the believed cash 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 level of the financial incentive that is to be given to the employee who’s qualified for the incentive as a result of filing a bolstered 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 relator to receive roughly thirty % of the total length of the government’s retrieval against defendants who have made false and fraudulent promises for payment to the United States. Some current federal FCA recoveries by the U.S. Department of Justice have exceeded $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 recognized as involving “wrongdoing” must be referred as a suggestion on the program by the staff. A South Carolina government personnel is permitted to just one reward possibly under the Act or even under the State Employee Suggestion Program, at the employee’s option. Id.
Civil Remedies for SC Whistleblowers
If a South Carolina government worker suffers an adverse activity related to employment within one (one) year after getting regular filed a protected report which alleged wrongdoing, the personnel may institute a non jury civil action against the public body employer after exhausting all available grievance or other management remedies, and such grievance/administrative proceedings have resulted in a finding that the staff would not have been disciplined but just for the reporting of alleged wrongdoing. S.C. Code § 8-27-30(A). The adverse action or retaliations can consist of is dismissal, suspension from work, demotion, or a decrease in whistleblower’s compensation. The statutory remedies under the Act which the negatively effected employee may recover are (1) reinstatement to his or perhaps her former work position; (2) lost wages; (3) actual damages to not exceed 15 1000 Dollars ($15,000); as well as (4) reasonable attorney fees as dependent on the court. Id. Nonetheless, an award of attorney’s charges has a cap under the Act, and may not exceed 10 Thousand Dollars ($10,000) for just about any trial and 5 Thousand 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. Supreme Court held that when a whistleblower worker is limited to a recovery under the statutory treatments of the Act when the staff alleges a wrongful discharge exclusively on the cause of his whistleblowing. In Lawson, the court granted summary judgment against the worker because he couldn’t 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.
Unwanted Actions Based Upon Causes Outside of a Protected Report
In the event the appropriate authority which received the report determines the whistleblower employee’s report is unfounded or a simple technical violation and is also not made in great faith, the public body could take disciplinary action which includes termination as well as, notwithstanding the submitting of a report, a public body might dismiss, demote, suspend, and minimize the compensation of an employee for causes free from the filing of a protected report. Id. A South Carolina public body might also impose disciplinary sanctions against any immediate line supervisory staff members who hit back against another employee for having filed a good faith report.
Statute of Limitations
Under the Act, a whistleblower’s civil actions has to be commenced within a single (1) 365 days after the accrual on the source of action or exhaustion of all available grievance or any other administrative and judicial remedies, or such a lawsuit is permanently 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 workers which report violations of statutes, rules or regulations regarding occupational health and safety. S.C. Code § 41-15-510. The protected activities include filing a complaint, instituting a proceeding, or even testifying about OSHA violations. Any kind of staff that has been discharged and usually discriminated against by any person 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 cause investigation to be made as he or she deems appropriate, as well as, if the Commissioner determines that anti discrimination provisions of Section 41-15-510 are already violated, he must institute a law suit inside the appropriate court of common pleas against that discriminating human being or entity. In any this low steps, the court of common pleas has injunctive authority to restrain such OSHA anti discrimination violations, as well as authority to buy almost all appropriate relief such as reinstatement or rehiring of employee to his or perhaps the former situation of her with back pay. S.C. Code § 41-15-520. Unlike the Act, the OSHA whistleblower protections are offered to state government and personal employees.
South Carolina whistleblowers who are used 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 various other wrongdoing or regulations. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers and law firms which represent SC state government whistleblowers have to are aware of the protections afforded to these workers who are fired, demoted, suspended or maybe otherwise subjected to an adverse action in response to a report of fraud or any other wrongdoing by a public agency or perhaps one of its employees or officers. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers as well as law firms need to examine the administrative requirements essential 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, to correctly counsel such clients. Hence , as well, the employment attorney must be cognizant of the rights & cures of both South and private Carolina governing administration staff members which blow the whistle of violations of state OSHA statutes, regulations or rules.