We live in a Right to Work State, and employees are considered “at will”. But, let’s consider the following two scenarios quickly:
- Should a dental hygienist who was fired by her boss for being irresistibly attractive have a case for wrongful termination?
- What about an employee who reported illegal business practices and was fired just days later?
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What are your initial thoughts? What employee and employer rights come into play? Let’s start by defining what it means to be an “at will” employee.
What Are “At Will” Employee Rights?
Fox News outlines exactly what rights employees have under the at-will employment status in this segment called, “On Your Side.”
Being an at-will employee usually means working for a private business without a contract that stipulates the terms of employment. In an at-will employment relationship, the employer has the right to terminate an employee at any time for a good cause or no cause at all. The employee, in turn, has the right to quit at any time with or without warning.
At-will employees may have a wrongful termination case if they can prove discrimination, harassment or retaliation. [/caption]Exceptions have been created in state and federal law to protect at-will employees from wrongful termination as a matter of public policy. Some of these include:
- Discrimination based on age, sex, race, color, national origin, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity;
- Harassment based on any of the above characteristics;
- Discrimination or harassment based on association with someone of a different race (such as having a spouse, boyfriend, or child of another race);
- Retaliation because an employee made a complaint about illegal discrimination or harassment; or,
- Retaliation because an employee does something that he or she is legally obligated or entitled to do, like collecting workers’ compensation benefits after an on-the-job injury, serving on a jury or blowing the whistle on illegal activities.
Discrimination normally means that you have been disciplined, fired, demoted or not hired based on your age, sex, race, color, national origin, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation or gender identity.
What is the Employment Law in South Carolina?
Here are some quick employment law facts in South Carolina found on Wrongful Termination Laws site:
- South Carolina employers must comply with the at-will laws as described above if they have at least fifteen employees.
- In our state, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination. File a complaint on their website.
- The South Carolina Human Affairs Commission enforces the state’s laws prohibiting discrimination.
- We do not have a minimum wage law in South Carolina, which means the state enforces the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
- Tipped employees may be paid less with a minimum of $2.13 an hour. However, they must make up the difference in pay with tips. Combined this must add up to the full minimum hourly wage.
Find out more about hour and wage issues, time off work, and where to file your claims here.
If you believe that you have been wrongfully fired, you may have the right to bring a claim against your employer. Laws vary from state to state, so talk to us – experienced employment lawyers – about your particular situation. But act fast – in some cases you must report a wrongful termination in as few as 45 days.