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Quick and Easy Guide to Labor & Employment Law: South Carolina

This state-specific guide covers labor and employment case law, statutes, rules, and regulations that HR professionals and clients often encounter or have questions about in South Carolina.

Employment at Will

In South Carolina (with few exceptions), if an employee is employed for an indefinite period of time, the employment relationship is considered to be "employment at will." This means that both the employer and employee can end the relationship at any time, for any reason – or for no reason at all – as long as the reason is not against the law.

Immigration and E-Verify

(S.C. Code Ann. § 41-8-10 et seq.)

The South Carolina Illegal Immigration and Reform Act requires all employers to verify the legal status of new employees. In addition to completing and maintaining the federal Employment Eligibility Verification Form (Form I-9), an employer must also verify the status of new employees through E-Verify within three business days after hiring the employee.

Medical Testing

(S.C. Code Ann § 1-13-85)

An employer may not conduct a medical examination or make inquiries of job applicants regarding the presence, nature, or severity of a disability. Rather, an employer may only inquire about the ability of an applicant to perform job-related functions.

If an offer of employment is made, an employer may then require a medical examination before the commencement of employment duties, but only if the examination is required of all applicants and is job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

(S.C. Code Ann. §§ 44-107-10 et seq. and 41-1-15)

Drug testing of job applicants is allowed in South Carolina. Employers are required by state law to keep the results of such tests confidential, as well as any other information, interviews, reports, statements, and memoranda, written or otherwise, received through a testing program. South Carolina has a Drug-Free Workplace Act, which is voluntary on the part of employers. If employers choose to participate in the Drug-Free Workplace program, there are certain requirements set forth in the Act.

Criminal Background Check

(S.C. Code Regs. § 73-23(E))

An employer is permitted to consider criminal conviction records in employment decisions and may generally ask job applicants about arrests or convictions as part of the application process. Rule may differ at the local level.

Some employers are required to perform criminal background checks of job applicants, including, but not limited to, school districts, charter schools, private security firms, investigation agencies, fire departments, and alcohol retailers. (S.C. Code Ann. §§ 59-25-115, 40-18-20 and 40-18-80).

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and Diversity and Employee Relations

South Carolina Human Affairs Law

(S.C. Code Ann. § 1-13-10 et seq.)

The South Carolina Human Affairs Law (SCHAL) applies to employers with 15 or more employees. The SCHAL mirrors federal law pertaining to protections against employment discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions), age, national origin (including ancestry), and disability.

The SCHAL also prohibits harassment based on these protected characteristics.

South Carolina employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who oppose an unlawful employment practice or who are involved in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under the SCHAL.

Pregnancy

(S.C. Code Ann. §§ 1-13-30; 1-13-80)

The SCHAL requires an employer with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions (including, but not limited to, lactation). Reasonable accommodations may include more frequent or longer breaks; a private place, other than a bathroom stall, for expressing milk; a modified food or drink policy; seating or allowing the employee to sit more frequently; assistance with manual labor; temporary transfer to a less-strenuous or less-hazardous vacant position; job restructuring or light duty; modified equipment or devices; and modified work schedules.

Discrimination for Filing Complaints and Instituting Proceedings

(S.C. Code Ann. § 41-15-510 et seq.)

An employer in South Carolina is prohibited from discriminating against an employee who has filed a complaint or instituted, or caused to be instituted, any proceeding under or relating to statutes, rules, or regulations regarding occupational safety and health, or who testified, or is about to testify, in any such proceedings or because of the exercise by such employee on behalf of themself or others of any right afforded by such statutes, rules, or regulations.

Discrimination Against Smokers

(S.C. Code Ann. § 41-1-85)

A South Carolina employer is prohibited from basing personnel actions, such as employment, discipline, demotion, retaliation, or termination, on an employee's offsite tobacco use.

Discrimination Based on Political Opinions

(S.C. Code Ann. § 16-17-560)

In South Carolina, it is unlawful to terminate an employee because of political opinions or the exercise of political rights and privileges.

Meal and Rest Breaks

There is no state law requirement for meal or rest breaks.

Wage, Hour, and Benefits

Wage Deductions

(S.C. Code Ann. § 41-10-40)

Employers with five or more employees must pay employees in United States cash or negotiable instruments, and are prohibited from making deductions from employee wages unless the deductions are legally required by state or federal law (e.g., for employment taxes) or the employer has notified the employee in writing of the amount and terms of the deductions.

Wage Statements

(S.C. Code Ann. § 41-10-30)

Employers with five or more employees must provide each employee with an itemized statement for each pay period showing gross pay and any deductions made.

Health Care Continuation Coverage

(S.C. Code Ann. 38-71-770)

South Carolina's Health Care Continuation Coverage Law requires that group health insurance policies issued to employees include continuation of coverage for all employees or members who have been continuously insured for at least six months and whose coverage has been terminated for any reason (other than non-payment of premium). Continuation coverage is available for the remainder of the month when coverage terminates, plus six months, as long as the group policy or a successor policy remains in force and the employee or member makes timely premium payments.

Child Labor

(S.C. Code Ann. § 41-13-5 et seq.)

South Carolina restricts the occupations in which minors may be employed and the number of hours and times during which they may work.

Minors Under 14 Years of Age

(S.C. Code Regs. § 71-3105)

Generally, minors under age 14 may not be employed. However, minors of any age may be employed in the following manners: working on a farm (with some restrictions); delivering newspapers; performing in radio, television, movies, or theatrical productions; or working for their parents in family-owned businesses (except manufacturing or hazardous jobs). There are exceptions for the employment of student-learners.

Minors Ages 14 and 15

(S.C. Code Regs. § 71-3106)

In addition to the occupations above, minors ages 14 and 15 may not work in the following occupations:

  • Manufacturing, mining, or processing
  • The operation or tending of hoisting apparatuses or of any power-driven machinery other than office machines
  • The operation of motor vehicles or service as helpers on such vehicles
  • Public messenger service
  • Occupations in connection with:
    • transportation of people or property by rail, highway, air, water, pipeline, or other means;
    • warehousing and storage;
    • communications and public utilities;
    • construction (including demolition and repair), except certain office or sales work
  • Work performed in or about boiler or engine rooms
  • Work in connection with maintenance or repair of the establishment, machines, or equipment
  • Outside window-washing that involves working from windowsills and all work requiring the use of ladders, scaffolds, or their substitutes
  • Cooking and baking, with certain exceptions
  • Occupations that involve operating, setting up, adjusting, cleaning, oiling, or repairing power-driven food slicers, grinders, food choppers, cutters, and bakery-type mixers
  • Work in freezers and meat coolers and all work in the preparation of meats for sale, with certain exceptions
  • Loading and unloading goods to and from trucks, railroad cars, or conveyors
  • All occupations in warehouses, except office and clerical work

Minors ages 14 and 15 may not work:

  • During school hours
  • More than 40 hours a week when school is not in session
  • More than 18 hours a week when school is in session
  • More than eight hours a day when school is not in session
  • More than three hours a day when school is in session
  • Before 7:00 a.m.
  • After 7:00 p.m. during the school year
  • After 9:00 p.m. during the summer break

Minors Ages 16 and 17

(S.C. Code Regs. § 71-3107)

Minors ages 16 and 17 may not work in occupations involving:

  • Manufacturing or storing explosives
  • Driving a motor vehicle or working as an outside helper on any public road, highway, in or about any mine (including open pit mine or quarry), place where logging or sawmill operations are in progress, or in any excavation
  • Logging or operating a sawmill, lathe mill, shingle mill or cooperage-stock mill
  • Operating, helping to operate, setting up, adjusting, repairing, oiling, or cleaning certain power-driven woodworking machines and equipment
  • Exposure to radioactive substances and to ionizing radiations
  • Operating power-driven hoisting apparatuses
  • Operating power-driven metal forming, punching, and shearing machines, and setting up, adjusting, repairing, oiling, or cleaning those machines
  • Operating or assisting to operate power-driven paper-products machines, including but not limited to, arm-type wire stitchers or staplers, circular or band saws, or corner-cutter or mitering machines
  • Manufacturing clay construction products and silica refractory products
  • Operating power-driven fixed or portable machines, except machines equipped with fully automatic feed and ejection
  • Wrecking, demolition, and shipbreaking operations
  • Roofing operations
  • Excavating, working in, or backfilling (refilling) trenches
  • In or about slaughtering and meat-packing establishments; rendering plants; or wholesale, retail, or service establishments
  • Operating power-driven bakery machines
  • Mining, other than coal

Certain exceptions may apply within the occupations listed above.

Attendance and Leave

South Carolina has fewer laws relating to required leaves for private employees than many other states, but does have mandated leave laws such as maternity (covering employers with 15 or more employees (SCHAL, supra); jury duty or court appearance (S.C. Code Ann. § 41-1-70); crime victim (S.C. Code Ann. § 16-3-1550); military (S.C. Code Ann. § 8-7-90); and bone marrow donation leave (S.C. Code Ann. § 44-43-80).

South Carolina employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who comply with legal subpoenas, serve on juries, or take or ask for leave of employment to donate bone marrow.

Health and Safety

(S.C. Code Ann. § 41-15-10 et seq.)

South Carolina operates a state-specific occupational health and safety program that applies to all employers. Certain exceptions apply (e.g., maritime employers, employers on military bases, and employers in Area D of the Savannah River Site and the Three Rivers Solid Waste Authority).

South Carolina is a state plan state and has some unique statutes, including regulations for the construction industry.

Smoking at Work

(S.C. Code Ann. § 44-95-10 et al.)

The South Carolina Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits a person from smoking in certain public indoor areas, including facilities providing children's services, health care facilities (except for employee break areas), elevators, arenas, and auditoriums. Smoking is permitted in other public buildings, but the owner, manager, or agent in charge of the premises must make every reasonable effort to prevent designated smoking areas from impinging upon designated smoke-free areas.

In areas where smoking is permitted, an employer must conspicuously display signs designating smoking and nonsmoking areas. However, signs are not required for private offices.

Organizational Exit

(S.C. Code Ann. §§ 41-10-10, 41-10-50 and 41-10-60)

An employer with five or more employees must pay terminated employees (whether voluntary or involuntary) all wages due within 48 hours of the day of termination or on the next regularly scheduled payday, not to exceed 30 days after termination.

References

(S.C. Code Ann. § 41-1-65)

South Carolina law protects an employer from civil liability that responds to a written request concerning a current or former employee. The employer may disclose to a prospective employer:

  • Written employee evaluations
  • Official personnel notices that formally record the reasons for separation
  • Whether the employee was voluntarily or involuntarily released from service and the reason for the separation
  • Information about job performance
  • Dates of employment, pay level, and wage history

The employer may lose immunity if it knowingly or recklessly discloses false information.

Breastfeeding

(S.C. Code Ann. § 63-5-40)

A woman may breastfeed her child in any location where the mother and her child are authorized to be located. In addition, employers must make reasonable efforts to provide workers with reasonable break time and space to express breast milk at work, as detailed in the South Carolina Lactation Support Act, enacted in 2020.

Unemployment Compensation

(S.C. Code § 41-35-10 et seq.)

In South Carolina, the Department of Employment and Workforce administers unemployment benefits and determines eligibility on a case-by-case basis. Applicants must meet these three eligibility requirements in collect unemployment benefits in South Carolina: (1) Past earnings must meet minimum requirements; (2) the unemployment must be through no fault of the applicant; and (3) the applicant must be available to work and actively seeking employment.

Gun Laws

(S.C. Code Ann. § 23-31-210 et seq.)

South Carolina has a Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP) law. South Carolina is not an open carry state. The gun must be concealed, and the holder must have a CWP. The CWP holder can carry the gun everywhere except:

  • Police stations, sheriff's departments, jails, prisons, or other law enforcement facilities
  • Courthouses and courtrooms
  • Polling places on election days
  • School or college athletic events not related to firearms
  • Offices or meeting places of government entities
  • Daycares and preschools
  • Places where firearms are prohibited by federal laws
  • Churches or religious sanctuaries, unless permission is given by the head of the facility
  • Hospitals, medical clinics, doctor's offices, or other places where medical services are rendered, unless given permission by the head of the facility
  • Homes, apartments, or other dwellings, unless with the express permission of the person living at the residence
  • Business or other establishments that post "No Concealed Weapons Allowed" signs or that otherwise express that they do not want concealed weapons on their premises

To keep concealed weapons out of a business, the employer or owner must post a sign that is clearly visible from the outside of the building. It must be at least eight inches wide and at least 12 inches tall. It must state "NO CONCEALABLE WEAPONS ALLOWED" in black, one-inch-tall, all-capital letters at the bottom of the sign and centered between the lateral edges of the sign. It also must have a black silhouette of a handgun inside a circle seven inches in diameter with a diagonal line that runs from the lower left to the upper right at a 45-degree angle. It must be placed between 40 and 60 inches from the bottom of the building's entrance door.

Employers may prohibit employees from bringing weapons into the workplace.

Workers' Compensation

(S.C. Code Ann. § 42-1-10 et seq.)

Every South Carolina employer and employee, with certain exceptions, is presumed to be covered by the state's Workers' Compensation Act. Exceptions to this provision include railroad and railway express companies and employees, certain casual employees, federal employees in South Carolina, businesses with fewer than four employees, agricultural employees, certain real estate salespersons, and – by election – corporate officers. Employers covered by the provisions of the Act are required to maintain insurance sufficient for the payment of compensation or shall furnish satisfactory proof the Workers' Compensation Commission of their ability to pay the compensation in the amount and manner due an injured employee. The South Carolina Department of Insurance is responsible for approving rates and classifications for all workers' compensation insurers. The Commission is responsible for administering the Act in South Carolina. The Commission works closely with the governor, General Assembly, and Commission's many constituents to ensure that the workers' compensation system is fair, equitable, and responsive to the needs of the citizens of South Carolina.

South Carolina employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who institute, in good faith, any proceeding under South Carolina's workers' compensation laws.

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Guide last updated November 2022.

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