Retaliation Lawyers Serving Spartanburg and Greenville, SC
A “retaliatory discharge” occurs when, in response to you engaging in a legally protected activity, your employer either fires you or makes your working conditions so unbearable that you are forced to quit.
Because a retaliatory discharge is illegal, it is an exception to the general rule in South Carolina that says an employer can fire you for virtually any reason. An employee who has been subjected to unlawful retaliation has a right to seek damages that include getting their job back as well as lost wages and benefits, or “back pay.”
If you believe that you are the victim of a retaliatory discharge, contact Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins, P.C., without delay. If we determine that you have a valid claim, we can put our legal team to work on your case right away.
Our firm assists workers throughout Upstate South Carolina, including Spartanburg, Greenville and surrounding communities.
What Are ‘Protected Activities’ for South Carolina Workers?
When you assert a retaliatory discharge claim, the first thing you will need to prove is that you were engaged in a “protected activity.” Under South Carolina and federal law, the following types of activities would tend to fall within that category:
- Exercising your state and federal rights – Examples would include filing for workers’ compensation benefits, taking up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or seeking reasonable accommodations for your disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- Opposing unlawful employment practices – If you oppose or participate in an investigation of workplace discrimination or harassment, violations of workplace safety standards or violations of labor laws that require workers to be paid minimum wage and overtime, you are legally shielded from employer retaliation.
- Reporting other unlawful employer activity – South Carolina and federal whistleblower statutes protect you from retaliation for reporting certain kinds of illegal activity, such as your employer’s fraudulent acquisition and misuse of government funds under the False Claims Act. Under the South Carolina law, only employees of state government agencies are protected from retaliation.
An attorney can examine your case and help you to determine if you were engaged in an activity that was protected as a matter of law.
Proving Retaliatory Discharge in South Carolina
In addition to showing you were engaged in a protected activity, you must show that your supervisor or other manager who fired you knew that you were engaged in this activity, and that an “adverse employment action” was taken against you within a reasonable amount of time after you engaged in this activity.
You also need to establish a connection between the adverse action and your protected activity.
An “adverse employment action” includes firing or disciplining you as well as many other types of actions, including:
- Demoting you
- Denying you a promotion or pay raise
- Giving you unjustified negative performance evaluations
- Changing your job duties
- Reassigning you to a job you aren’t fit to perform
- Making verbal threats
- Subjecting you to physical assaults
If you find that your workplace has become so hostile, offensive or intimidating that you can no longer work there, it may amount to a “constructive discharge.”
These cases can be highly difficult to establish. You typically need to prove many aspects of your case through indirect, or “circumstantial,” evidence. Job descriptions, work reviews, e-mails, internal memos and witness interviews can all play crucial roles.
An experienced attorney can review this evidence and provide an honest assessment of whether you have a valid legal claim. If so, the lawyer can guide you through a process that typically starts with filing a complaint with a South Carolina state agency such as the Human Affairs Commission or with a federal agency such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S. Department of Labor or Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
In some instances, the retaliation against you can be stopped and you can obtain relief such as “back pay” and other damages without having to go to court. If not, however, you must be prepared to file a claim in state or federal court within strict time limits set by law.
Contact Our Upstate South Carolina Retaliation Attorneys Today
Your right to engage in legally protected activities and to do your job is important to us at Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins, P.C. If you believe that you have been subjected to unlawful retaliation at work, we believe that you deserve to have your case thoroughly evaluated. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you.
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