State Law: South Carolina

 

The Law

 

The South Carolina Human Affairs Law makes it illegal for an employer or labor organization to discriminate against someone on the basis of sex.

 

Under South Carolina law, an "employer" means "any person who has fifteen or more employees for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year, and any agent of such a person, but such term does not include an Indian tribe or a bona fide private membership club other than a labor organization."

 

Thus, the South Carolina statute against discrimination in the workplace applies only to employers with 15 or more employees, the same as Title VII.

 

The South Carolina Human Affairs Law specifically covers employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, and disability.

 

The statute says, "The terms ‘because of sex’ or ‘on the basis of sex’ include, but are not limited to, because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work."

 

Filing A Complaint

 

The South Carolina Human Affairs Commission investigates complaints filed with it free of charge. Complaints under state law must be filed within 180 days of the date you became aware you were being discriminated against or the date of the alleged illegal act. You may file a complaint with the Commission by visiting the office, calling, or writing a letter. You can reach the Commission’s Administrative Headquarters at (803) 737-7800 or 1-800-521-0725. Ask to speak to an Intake Investigator. The Commission is located at 2611 Forest Drive, Suite 200, P.O. Box 4490, Columbia, SC 29204.

 

Before an official charge is filed, you must first fill out an Employment Initial Inquiry Questionnaire (Form 15). If you are alleging discriminatory demotion, failure to hire, discharge, transfer/promotion, maternity pregnancy, wages, or retaliation, there are separate issue forms that must also be filled out. These forms are available online. The relevant issue form and Form 15 must be returned to the Commission. After these forms are returned, a staff member will prepare a formal charge of discrimination.

 

Once a formal charge of discrimination is signed and filed with the Commission, the Commission will send your employer a letter and a copy of your complaint, stating that you believe you were/are being discriminated against. The employer will have an opportunity to respond to this complaint.

 

The Commission will either mediate, investigate, or transfer your case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (if the charge was filed between 180 and 300 days after the alleged discrimination). An investigator will be assigned to your case, who will act as a neutral decision-maker to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe you have been discriminated against and your rights violated.

 

If reasonable cause is found, you and your employer will be required to attempt to negotiate a settlement. If settlement negotiations fail, you should receive a Notice of Right to Sue from the Commission.

 

You may decide to go through the federal or state court process instead of the Commission’s investigative process. You must first file with the EEOC or South Carolina Commission and request a Notice of Right to Sue in order to file in court. The attorney you hire will explain this process to you.

 

Many South Carolina attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in federal court under federal law. However, most cases may be brought in either state or federal court. State law does not allow compensatory (emotional pain and suffering), punitive damages, or attorneys fees, all of which are allowed under federal law.

 

For more information and a more detailed explanation of the complaint process, please visit the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission website.