At a press briefing on May 11, 2020, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster announced that close contact service providers, fitness and exercise centers, commercial gyms, and commercial and public pools would be permitted to resume operations in a limited capacity on May 18, 2020.
Articles About South Carolina Labor And Employment Law
South Carolina’s Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) issued a notice effective April 16, 2020, requiring all employers to provide employees with a Notification of the Availability of Unemployment Insurance Benefits upon separation of employment. The Notice can be provided in person, by mail, electronically, by text message, or in document form.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has issued Executive Order No. 2020-22, which allows employers to make voluntary “COVID-19 Support Payments” to employees who are placed on furlough because of the COVID-19 pandemic without those Support Payments affecting employees’ eligibility for unemployment benefits.
On Tuesday, March 24th, the City of Charleston became the first city in South Carolina to enact an emergency “stay-at-home” ordinance that goes into effect on Thursday, March 26, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. and scheduled to remain in place for two weeks. The ordinance is an effort to decrease proliferation of the COVID-19 virus. It applies only to the City and not to other unincorporated areas in Charleston County. A copy of the ordinance can be found here: https://www.scribd.com/document/453080699/Charleston-Shelter-in-Place-Ordinance-March-24.
Last year, the City of Columbia, South Carolina enacted an ordinance that appeared to require substantial changes to private employers’ criminal record and salary history inquiry practices. At the time of enactment, the ordinance defined a covered “employer” as the “City, private employers and government contracts; and any person regularly employing five or more persons, any person acting as an agent of an employer, directly or indirectly; or any person undertaking for compensation to procure employees or opportunities for employment.” There was a disconnect, however, between this plain-text definition of “employer” and various other portions of the ordinance and public statements about the ordinance that otherwise suggested the City had actually not intended to cover private employers.
Columbia, South Carolina passed an ordinance effective August 6, 2019,1 limiting employers’ use of criminal background checks and banning employers from inquiring about salary history on job applications. South Carolina’s capital city is the latest locality to pass such a measure, following several others that passed similar ordinances within the past year.2
On July 24, 2019, South Carolina joined the ranks of Alabama, Pennsylvania, and others in abolishing future recognition of common law marriages in the state. The state will continue to recognize all common law marriages in effect before this date, but they will be subject to a higher standard of proof. On and after July 25, 2019, all South Carolina marriages will require the issuance of a marriage license.
South Carolina Supreme Court Employs Direct Benefits Test
Can a drug testing lab be sued for negligence in South Carolina if it mishandles an employee’s drug test? Yes, according to a recent decision issued by the South Carolina Supreme Court with potential ramifications for drug testing labs, employers, and employees who test positive for drugs. Shaw v. Psychemedics Corp., Opinion No. 27869 (S.C. March 20, 2019).
On March 21, 2019, the South Carolina Supreme Court answered a certified question that will impact third-party vendors under contract with South Carolina employers to conduct employee drug testing. In Shaw v. Psychemedics Corporation, the court held that drug-testing companies conducting tests on South Carolina employees owe a duty of care to those employees. Under Shaw, an employee may sue a drug testing company for negligence based on the company’s contractual relationship with the employer.
The South Carolina Supreme Court held that laboratories who perform workplace drug tests on behalf of employers owe a duty of care to the individuals who are tested and may be sued for negligence for failing to properly and accurately perform the drug tests and report the results. Shaw v. Psychemedics Corp., App. Case No. 2017-002538 (S.C. March 20, 2019).
Joining a nationwide trend, a bipartisan group of South Carolina legislators recently introduced bills in both houses of the General Assembly aimed at allowing applicants and employees to sue employers for unequal pay.
In South Carolina, as in most jurisdictions, unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce are unlawful. See South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act (the “Act”), S.C. Code Ann. §39-5-10, et seq. In order to be actionable, an act must be unfair or deceptive, and must have an impact upon the public interest. Impact on public interest may be established if the act or practice has the potential for repetition. Potential for repetition may be demonstrated by showing the same kind of action previously occurred, making it likely it will continue to occur without deterrence, or by showing a company’s procedures create the potential for repetition of the unfair and deceptive act. While myriad cases have addressed, interpreted and applied the Act, few have as succinctly dealt with whether acts incapable of repetition may be said to have potential for repetition as the recent case of Turner v. Kellett, 2019 WL 455101 (February 6, 2019).
In Owens v. Crabtree, Opinion No. 5616 (January 16, 2019), the South Carolina Court of Appeals held that a company’s termination of an employee for using company devices, on company time, to oppose a local building project that the company had a financial stake in was valid and did not violate public policy. The holding (1) illustrates the benefits of a written company policy regarding the use (including personal use) of company devices/technology and (2) provides an example of a valid termination that did not violate South Carolina public policy.
Bipartisan bills introduced in both houses of the South Carolina General Assembly propose allowing workers and job applicants to bring suit against employers for pay inequality and wage secrecy.