SOUTH CAROLINA DISCRIMINATION AND RETALIATION LAWYERS

Our firm has helped many employees who have been discriminated against or retaliated against on the basis of one’s membership in a protected class or engagement in protected activity.  There are many federal laws that protect the rights of employees and serve as exceptions to the “at-will” employment doctrine.  While the general rule for employment in South Carolina is that an employer can fire an employee at any time for any reason, whether good, bad, or for no reason at all, federal law prohibits employers from firing employees for discriminatory reasons or retaliatory reasons, described further below.

TITLE VII (RACE, COLOR, RELIGION, GENDER, OR NATIONAL ORIGIN)

Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees.  Title VII prohibits covered employers from discriminating against an individual on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, or national origin.  Title VII makes it illegal to refuse to hire, fire, or otherwise discriminate against any individual.  Furthermore, Title VII prohibits employers from retaliating against any individual because he or she as opposed an employment practice that is made unlawful under Title VII. 

SECTION 1981 (RACE)

In addition to Title VII, a post-Civil War law called “Section 1981” applies specifically to discrimination on the basis of race.  Section 1981 may provide further relief for individuals who are victims of racial discrimination.  For example, Section 1981 applies to all employers, no matter how small (i.e. the 15 person minimum of Title VII does not apply to Section 1981 claims).  Additionally, unlike Title VII, Section 1981 does not require a person to file a charge of racial discrimination or retaliation with the EEOC first.  There is also a much longer time limit for filing cases under Section 1981 than Title VII.  Perhaps most importantly, the monetary caps on punitive and compensatory damages that apply to Title VII cases do not apply in Section 1981 cases.  Overall, Section 1981 may be a more preferable avenue for victims of racial discrimination and racial retaliation to explore.

PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Under the PDA, employers cannot discriminatorily assign or reassign pregnant women to unfavorable positions, take away their benefits, require mandatory leave periods, refuse to hire, terminate, or take other negative action towards pregnant women.  The PDA only applies to employers with 15 or more employees. 

AGE DISCRIMINATION IN EMPLOYMENT ACT (“ADEA”)

The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees and protects individuals age 40 or older against age discrimination.  The ADEA prohibits discrimination because of age in hiring, placement, promotion, demotion, transfer, termination and discipline. Some examples of situations that could trigger an age discrimination claim are:

  • When company layoffs are announced, most of the persons laid off were older, while younger workers with less seniority and less on-the-job experience were kept on;
  • You were turned down for a promotion, which went to someone younger hired from outside the company;
  • You didn’t get hired because the employer wanted a younger-looking person to do the job;
  • You were fired because your boss decided it was time for you to “pass the torch” to a younger person.

AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (“ADA”)

The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment.  Many people have disabilities but do not consider themselves “disabled.”  In fact, many common medical conditions are covered disabilities under the ADA.  Some of the most common disabilities we deal with include diabetes, depression, anxiety, back/neck injuries, seizure disorder, heart impairments, and hearing disorders.   

An employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation to the known disability of an employee or job applicant if it would not impose an “undue hardship” on the employer’s business.  Employers are also required to engage in the “interactive process” before making a finding that the accommodation request will impose undue hardship.  The interactive process is an opportunity for the employer and employee to discuss the accommodation and options. 

OPTIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS DESCRIBED ABOVE

If you are an employee or job applicant who believes you have been discriminated or retaliated against for any of the reasons discussed above, you should immediately reach out to an attorney as soon as possible.  In many instances, you should consider filing a written complaint of discrimination pursuant to any policies or procedures described in your Employee Handbook. 

Additionally, any individual who wants to bring a claim under Title VII, the ADEA or the ADA must first file a charge of discrimination or retaliation with the EEOC or South Carolina Human Affairs Commission, generally within 300 days of the offending conduct. 

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