As an employee in South Carolina, it can be helpful to understand the laws that protect your rights. Depending on your situation, you may be covered by federal laws, state laws, or both.
The Hiring Process
When hiring, companies may not request any information based on discriminatory criteria through either want ads or agencies. This includes age or gender. Interviewers may not ask questions irrelevant to your ability to do the job, such as:
- When are you going to have children?
- Where were you born?
- Which church do you attend?
Minimum Wage and Overtime
Most South Carolina employees are guaranteed a fair wage for hours worked under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. This Act sets a minimum hourly wage and requires overtime pay for all hours over 40 that you work in a week. Overtime is payable at 1.5 times base pay or higher. Certain industries and job categories are exempt.
State law requires that all employers provide a safe working environment where employees don't have to worry about their health or safety. Employers may not fire, demote, or otherwise punish employees who report safety problems.
South Carolina Workers' Compensation
Employees who suffer a job-related injury or illness are entitled to have their medical bills paid and receive disability payments. Most companies with four or more employees must carry workers' compensation insurance to pay these benefits.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Requirements
If you or a family member is seriously ill, your employer may be required to allow you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in any 12 month period without jeopardizing your job. Very small companies may be exempt, and you must meet certain employment criteria to qualify. You may also take leave for other qualifying reasons.
Harassment at Work
You have a right to enjoy a workplace free from harassment, which is defined as a pattern of unwelcome physical or verbal behavior. For example, anyone who regularly makes lewd comments about your body (sexual harassment), derogatory remarks about your race, or disparaging remarks about your religion is harassing you.
Leaving Your Job
Under South Carolina's at-will employment laws, you and your employer are free to end your employment relationship for almost any reason if you don't have an employment contract. However, employers can't violate anti-discrimination laws to fire you, nor can they fire you for taking leave under FMLA or for refusing to break the law. Your employer must give you your final paycheck within a certain period of time after leaving, but he does not have to pay you for unused vacation time unless the company has a policy of doing so.
Unemployment and COBRA Benefits
Under certain circumstances, you may be entitled to unemployment and COBRA benefits after leaving your job. Unemployment benefits pay cash, based on previous income, to people who were fired for reasons other than good cause. The federal COBRA program allows many employees in companies with at least 20 workers to keep their group health coverage after leaving the company or after having their hours reduced. A similar state program covers many employees in smaller companies.
Finding Legal Advice for your Problem With a Labor Attorney
This brief article can't cover all aspects of employment law, or all the situations you may face. If you need legal advice related to your job, talk with a South Carolina labor lawyer.