South Carolina Employment Contracts laws & HR compliance analysis

South Carolina Employment Contracts: What you need to know

Every employment relationship is a contractual relationship, regardless of whether the contract is reduced to writing. Employment contracts take many forms, including at-will employment, implied contracts created by offer letters or language in employee handbooks, collective bargaining agreements or union contracts, and individual written employment agreements.
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South Carolina is an “employment-at-will” state, so the default contract of employment is at will. This means that both the employee and employer are generally free to terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason, as long as the reason is not illegal or violative of public policy (e.g., discriminatory). While the presumption in favor of at-will employment is strong in South Carolina, the courts have recognized exceptions in some circumstances.
The South Carolina courts have held that the mandatory statements and/or procedures contained in an employee handbook may create an implied contract and subsequently alter an otherwise at-will relationship (Shelton v. Oscar Mayer Foods Corp., 459 S.E.2d 851 (SC Ct. App. 1995)). However, the courts have also indicated that the inclusion of a conspicuous and carefully drafted disclaimer statement may effectively shield an employer from subsequent contract claims (Hessenthaler v. Tri-County Sister Help, Inc., 616 S.E.2d 694 (SC 2005)).
In certain circumstances, oral statements or promises made by an employer or its managers in combination with provisions in employee handbooks and other documents, such as offer letters, can give rise to an implied contract that limits the employer's right to terminate an employee. Although ...

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