South Carolina Discipline laws & HR compliance analysis

South Carolina Discipline: What you need to know

Progressive discipline is a disciplinary model in which the severity of the discipline increases each time an employee commits an infraction. Generally, the progressive discipline scale starts with an oral reprimand, followed by a written warning, suspension, and, finally, termination. Progressive discipline procedures are most often found in collective bargaining agreements and in the public employment arena, but they are becoming increasingly common in the private sector.
There are two major issues with having a progressive discipline procedure in an at-will relationship. First, it can be time-consuming to administer the steps and generate the supporting paperwork. Second, a progressive discipline procedure can, under certain circumstances, change an at-will employment relationship to a contractual one.
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If a disciplinary procedure is promised. While South Carolina courts are fairly conservative in upholding the concept of at-will employment, employers should be extremely cautious about allowing anyone in the organization to make any promises to an employee or applicant. In a number of cases, the state's courts have determined that if an employer establishes a disciplinary procedure to be followed before an employee is terminated, that policy may be considered a contract. This is especially true if the policy was specific enough so that employees would come to rely on it.
In addition, South Carolina courts have held that assurances of a disciplinary procedure, the consistent practice of disciplinary steps before termination, or oral or written representations of such a procedure may be binding, and that a written contract may be modified by oral agreement even when the contract ...

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