South Carolina is an "at will" employment state, which means that a company can terminate a worker without having a good reason to do so. However, the law protects employees from being fired under certain circumstances. For instance, an employer may not terminate you because of your race, gender, religion or national origin. Likewise, an employer cannot fire you because you reported hazardous work conditions or filed a worker's compensation claim after being injured at work. People who are wrongfully terminated can file lawsuits to recover their lost wages and other damages they suffer as a result of the employer's illegal conduct.
Act quickly. The statute of limitations on South Carolina wrongful termination claims can be quite short. Under South Carolina's human affairs law, you must file any charge of discrimination in employment within 180 days after the alleged discriminatory practice.
Decide on the legal basis for your claim. How you proceed will depend on why you think your termination was illegal. Claims involving employment discrimination on the basis of your race, gender, religion, age or national origin will require you to go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before filing a lawsuit. Other wrongful terminations, for instance retaliation for filing a worker's compensation claim, can go directly to court.
Contact the appropriate agency. Government agencies assist with processing wrongful termination claims. For claims involving employment discrimination, contact the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission or the local office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Claims involving hazardous workplace conditions should be reported to the South Carolina Department of Labor's Office of OSHA Compliance. Problems involving wages and hours can be reported to the Department of Labor's Office of Wages and Child Labor.
Decide where to file. If your case involves violations of federal law, such as Title VII or the Americans with Disabilities Act, you will file your case in the federal court nearest you. There are four divisions of the federal district court in South Carolina, located in Charleston, Columbia, Florence and Greenville. If you allege only violations of state laws, you will file in the nearest circuit court.
Prepare necessary documents. If you are representing yourself in your lawsuit, speak to the clerk of the court to find out what needs to be filed with your lawsuit. Along with a complaint, which explains your allegations, you likely will also have to submit a summons, which notifies the employer that it is being sued. Your jurisdiction might also require additional paperwork.
Contact a local attorney for advice specific to your situation.
Failure to file your claim within the statute of limitations can result in your claim being permanently barred from court.
Adele Nicholas is a writer in Chicago. Since 2003, she has been a contributor to publications including Corporate Legal Times, ChicagoMag.com and InsideCounsel magazine. Nicholas holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Northwestern University and a J.D. from the John Marshall Law School.