South Carolina’s Whistleblower Protections
South Carolina whistleblowers who are employed by a South Carolina state government agency are protected from adverse employment action when they report in time violations of federal or state laws or regulations , or any other wrongdoing. South Carolina attorneys, lawyers and law firms who represent SC State government whistleblowers need to know about the rights that are provided to employees who are dismissed, demoted or suspended or otherwise subjected to adverse actions in response to a revelation of fraud or any other wrongdoing by a public agency or one of its officers or employees. South Carolina whistleblower attorneys, lawyers and law firms should also be aware of the administrative requirements necessary to invoke the protections of the state's anti-retaliation law, in addition to the relief options available to SC whistleblowers. There are whistleblower protections for government and private employees who report violation of the state's occupational safety and health laws, rules or regulations. SC'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 Federal Law or Regulation" (the "Act") to shield South Carolina state employees from being retaliated against or disciplined if they report violations of federal or state laws or regulations or other misconduct, such as fraud and abuse. See South Carolina Code SS 8-27-10, et seq. The Act is a prohibition on an South Carolina public body from decreasing the compensation of the state employee, or from dismissing, suspending, or degrading employees of the state because of the employee's filing a protected complaint of wrongdoing with an appropriate authority. S.C. Code SS 8-27-20(A). The protected report must be made by an SC whistleblower with good faith and should not amount to a mere technical violation. Id. The Act is not applicable to non-government private workers or employers. S.C. Code SS 8-27-50. Visit:- A public body under the Act refers to one of the following South Carolina entities: (A) a department that is part of the state; (B) A state commission, board, agency, or authority; (C) a public or governmental body , or an political subdivision within the state, such as municipalities, counties and school districts as well as public service or special purpose districts. (D) the name of an entity that is a corporation, agency, or other entity that is supported in totality or in part with public funds or expending public funds; or, (E) an quasi-governmental entity of the State, as well as the political subdivisions of it. S.C. Code SS 8-27-10(1). It is a South Carolina employee under the Act is an employee of any South Carolina public body entity typically excluding state executives whose appointment or appointment is subject to Senate confirmation. S.C. Code SS 8-27-10(2). An appropriate authority under the Act means either (A) that public entity which employs the whistleblower who is making the report protected or (B) a federal or state-level government body, agency, or other entity that has jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement and regulatory violations, professional conduct or ethics or any other misconduct, which includes, but not limited to, those of 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") as well as the Office of Attorney General (the "SCAG"). S.C. Code SS 8-27-10(3). If a protected disclosure is sent to an entity other than the public agency which employs the whistleblower making the report the Act stipulates that the employer public body be notified as soon as practicable by the person who was the recipient of the information. Id. A SC whistleblower employee's protected report in accordance with the Act is a document written accusing of misconduct or waste. The report must be submitted in the first sixty (60) days from the date that the employee who is making the report first finds out about the wrongdoing alleged, and that includes (a) when the report was made; (a) the date and time of disclosure; (b) the name of the person who made the report; and, (c) what the wrongdoing and the specific date or dates that the wrongdoing allegedly was committed. S.C. Code SS 8-27-10(4). Pursuant to the Act, a reportable wrongdoing is any action taken by an entity of the public that leads to a substantial misuse of power, mismanagement, destruction or loss of substantial public funds or public resources or resources, which includes claims that an employee of a public entity has committed a deliberate violation of federal or state statutory law or regulations or other political subdivision ordinances or regulations or a code of ethics, S.C. Code SS 8-27-10(5). A violation which is merely technical or of a minor nature is not a "wrongdoing" according to the Act. Id. Reward for SC Whistleblowers If an SC state employee comes forward about fraudulent or abusive acts or infractions of state, federal or local laws or rules, and the protected report result in the saving of money for public use in the State in South Carolina, the whistleblower can be awarded a prize and/or bounty as per the Act. However, the reward is very limited. The regulations of the Act allow that a SC whistleblower can receive the lesser amount of two thousand Dollars ($2,000) or twenty-five percent (25 percent) of the estimated money saved by the state within the initial year following the filing of the whistleblower's account. It is the South Carolina State Budget and Control Board determines that amount as the monetary reward that must be given to the employee who is entitled to the award as a result of filing an unprotected report. Check out S.C. Code SS 8-27-20(B). This reward is very meager when compared with the bounty provisions in the Federal False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. SSSS 3729-3732 (the "FCA"). The FCA allows a qui-tam whistleblower, or relator, to receive up to 30% of the total amount of the government's recovery against defendants who have submitted fraudulent or false claims for payment in an entity in the United States. Some recent federal FCA recoveries made by government agencies like the U.S. Department of Justice exceed $1 Billion dollars. However the Act does not override the state Employee Suggestion Program. However, in the event that a whistleblower's organization is a participant within the state Employee Suggestion Program that includes items involving "wrongdoing" must be referred as a suggestion for the State Employee Suggestion Program by an employee. An South Carolina government employee is legally entitled to only one reward either under the Act or under the State Employee Suggestion Program or at the discretion of the employee. Id. Civil Remedies for SC Whistleblowers If a South Carolina government employee suffers an adverse action related to employment within one (1) year after having timely filed a protected report which alleged wrongdoing, the employee may institute a non-jury civil action against the public body employer after exhausting all available grievance or other administrative remedies, and such grievance/administrative proceedings have resulted in a finding that the employee would not have been disciplined but for the reporting of alleged wrongdoing. S.C. Code SS 8-27-30(A). Retaliation or adverse action may include dismissal, suspension from employment as well as demotion or decrease in whistleblower's compensation. The remedies available under the Act that the affected person can pursue include (1) returning to his or her former post of employment; (2) lost wages; (3) actual damages not exceeding 15 thousand Dollars ($15,000) in total; and (4) reasonable attorney fees as determined by the court. Id. However, the award of attorney's fees has limitations under the Act, and may not exceed the amount of ($10,000) in any case and Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000) for appeals. Id.  

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