1. What kinds of discrimination are against state law in South Carolina?
2. How do I file a discrimination claim in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, a discrimination claim can be filed either with the state administrative agency, the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SHAC), or the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The two agencies have what is called a “work-sharing agreement,” which means that the agencies cooperate with each other to process claims. The two agencies have what is called a “work-sharing agreement,” which means that the agencies cooperate with each other to process claims. Filing a claim with both agencies is unnecessary, as long as you indicate to one of the agencies that you want it to “cross-file” the claim with the other agency. Some attorneys recommend that you file with the SHAC first for all discrimination claims.
To file a claim with the SHAC, contact its office below. More information about filing a claim with SHAC can be found at http://www.state.sc.us/schac/index.htm.
South Carolina Human Affairs Commission
P.O. Box 4490
2611 Forest Drive, Suite 200
Columbia, SC 29204
Phone: (803) 737-7800
Toll-free: (800) 521-0725
TDD: (803) 253-4125
To file a claim with the EEOC, contact your local EEOC office below. More information about filing a claim with the EEOC can be found at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/howtofil.html.
EEOC's Greenville Local Office
301 North Main Street
Greenville, SC 29601
Phone: (864) 241-4400
TTY: (864) 241-4403
3. What are my time deadlines?
Do not delay in contacting the SHAC or EEOC to file a claim. There are strict time limits in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. To preserve your claim under state law, you must file with the SHAC (or cross-file with the EEOC) within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. To preserve your claim under federal law, you must file with the EEOC (or cross-file with the state agency) within 300 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. However, as you might have other legal claims with shorter deadlines, do not wait to file your claim until your time limit is close to expiring. You may wish to consult with an attorney prior to filing your claim, if possible. Yet if you are unable to find an attorney who will assist you, it is not necessary to have an attorney to file your claim with the state and federal administrative agencies.
4. How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in South Carolina?
If your case is successfully resolved by an administrative agency, it may not be necessary to hire an attorney or file a lawsuit (to resolve your case, you probably will be required as to sign a release of your legal claims). If your case is not resolved by the SHAC or EEOC, and you maywant to continue to pursue the matter, you will need to pursue your claim in court. A federal employment discrimination case cannot be filed in court without first going to the EEOC, as discussed above, and the EEOC dismisses the charge. This process is called “exhaustion” of your administrative remedy. Similarly, before you can proceed with a lawsuit based on your state discrimination claim, you must file with the SHAC.
Because South Carolina law does not permit the compensatory (emotional pain and suffering) and punitive (damages which punish the employer) damages and attorneys' fees allowed under federal law, many South Carolina attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in federal court. A case filed in state court using federal law may be subject to removal, which means that a defendant employer requests to move the case to federal court because it involves a federal statute, such as Title VII or the ADEA.
Only once the EEOC issues the document known as “Dismissal and Notice of Rights” or “Notice of Right to Sue” (Form 161) can you file a case based upon your federal claim. A lawsuit based on your federal discrimination claim must be filed in federal or state court within 90 days of the date you receive the notice. (Be sure to mark down that date when you receive the notice.) A lawsuit based on your state claim must be filed within 120 days of receiving the SHAC's similar “right-to-sue” or dismissal letter, or within 1 year of the date you believe you were discriminated against, whichever is earlier. These deadlines are called the “statute of limitations.” If you have received one of these agency dismissal letters, do not delay consulting with an attorney. If your lawsuit is not filed by the deadline, then you may lose your ability to pursue a discrimination case.