Discipline and termination

State procedures

Are there state-specific laws on the procedures employers must follow with regard to discipline and grievance procedures?

South Carolina does not have a general law relating to the procedures employers must follow with regard to discipline and grievance programs. South Carolina employers who have progressive discipline policies requiring progression of certain discipline steps before termination are required to follow those steps per South Carolina common law. However, state and local agencies must establish an employee grievance procedure. The procedure must provide that all grievances of agency actions affecting a covered employee must be initiated internally. The employee has 14 calendar days of the effective date of the action and the agency must make a final decision on the grievance within 45 calendar days after the filing of the grievance. S.C. Code Ann. § 8-17-330.

At-will or notice

At-will status and/or notice period?

South Carolina is an employment ‘at-will’ state.

What restrictions apply to the above?

Although South Carolina is an ‘at-will’ employment state, several public policy exceptions exist to protect against certain types of termination. South Carolina common law supports wrongful termination causes of action for those employees required to engage in conduct that either violates criminal law or public policy. The South Carolina Supreme Court has expressly recognized that an employer violates public policy when the employer requires an employee to violate the law as a condition of maintaining employment, and when the act of terminating an employee is itself in violation of a criminal law. Ludwick v. This Minute of Carolina, Inc., 287 S.C. 219 (1985). Retaliatory discharge is also prohibited. In addition, an employee may not be discharged for any legally prohibited reason, such as discrimination against protected classes. Employment contracts altering ‘at-will’ employment and collective bargaining may also place restrictions on ‘at-will’ employment. However, in order to assist employers from inadvertently altering ‘at-will’ employment, South Carolina has provided that a handbook, personnel manual, policy, procedure, or other document issued by an employer will not create an express or implied contract of employment if a conspicuously disclaimer is made. S.C. Code Ann. § 41-1-110. 

Final paychecks

Are there state-specific rules on when final paychecks are due after termination?

Upon termination, for any reason whether voluntary or involuntary, the employer must pay all wages to the employee either within 48 hours of the termination or by the next regular payday, which must not exceed thirty days. S.C. Code Ann. § 41-10-50. Wages includes, vacation, holiday, and sick leave payments which are due under an employer policy or employment contract. S.C. Code Ann. § 41-10-10. Specifically, upon the termination of a sales representative, the employer must pay any commissions that have or will accrue under the contract to the sales representative. S.C. Code Ann. § 39-65-20.