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Employment-at-will Doctrine in South Carolina Essay


A mid-sized company that is based in South Carolina is now preparing for its Initial Public Offer (IPO). Upon joining the organization as the COO (Chief Operating Officer), I discovered multiple personnel challenges in the organization, which can deteriorate investor confidence and cause poor reception of the organization’s IPO. John placed an angry outburst on his Facebook wall, where he condemned the organization’s most vital client. One of the division overseers demands the consent of the COO to let off his escritoire for noncompliance. However, upon asking her to come to the administrative center, I found out that she had declined to set up a fake outflow statement for her manager. Anna’s manager also declined to endorse her day-off appeal to attend to another panel task. Currently, the supervisor is planning to terminate her contract for her being out of work with no consent. Although personnel-related challenges take different forms, this paper discusses how I can address these challenges in the context of the employment-at-will doctrine.

Summary of the Employment-at-will Doctrine

Employment contracts in all parts of the US apart from Montana are guided by the employment-at-will doctrine. In other nations, employment dismissals are based on the cause. States that have retained the at-will presumption assert that the law is important in terms of respecting contract freedoms and ensuring employer reverence. Instead of job security, most employers and employees prefer presumption.

In summary, the employment-at-will doctrine holds that employers have the right and freedom of terminating employee pact at any particular time for whatever reason they deem necessary apart from an illegal reason and when an organization does not incur any liability (Roehling, 2003). The doctrine also allows employees to quit their jobs any time without giving any reason or having to issue a notification. By so doing, they should not face any legal consequences.

The at-will presumption gives employers the freedom to alter employment terms without giving prior notice or attracting any official upshot. This claim means that employers can change wages and salaries and withdraw certain benefits without any legal liability. In the absence of any modification, the laws open employees to the vulnerability of sudden or arbitrary dismissals. They can be called for work without following any schedule to meet the needs of their employers (Roehling, 2003). However, in many states, including South Carolina, default employment-at-will doctrine is modifiable by terms of a contract. For instance, employers and employees can enter into a contract where they provide for termination in the event of a cause. In South Carolina and other states, apart from Montana, negotiations for contractual employment terms are mainly done with top-ranking employees only. This situation leaves low-ranking employees with collective bargaining as the only option for modifying the employment-at-will doctrine.

Evaluation of Three of the described Six Scenarios

The employment-at-will doctrine provides managers with an opportunity to fire employees at any time. The company relies on employees for its success. Any negative criticism from customers such as John damages their (customers) relationships with the company. Considering that the organization is preparing for its IPO, it is important to take disciplinary actions against John, including his dismissal or firing. This situation can create confidence among customers. The company respects and serves its interests so that its share value does not reduce. I will also not allow Anna’s boss to fire her. The company lacks whistleblower policies. Hence, upon considering the circumstances (cause) that are being cited by the secretaries’ boss, I will not authenticate a decision to fire her.

There are three main exceptions to the employment-at-will doctrine. Muhl (2001) identifies them as communal plan exclusion, oblique treaty omission, and covenant-of-good-faith. Exceptions to the employment-at-will doctrine support the above decisions. While employers can fire employees for any reason at will, common law exceptions to the rule prohibit employee termination on failure to report on duty to attend a jury as provided for in the public policy (Bierman & Youngblood, 2009). Under this exception, Anna’s boss is unjustified to deny her leave to attend jury duty. State laws in South Carolina prohibit this act. If Ann initiates legal proceedings against the company, authentication of a request to fire Anna makes it potentially liable for her failure to attend the jury.

Even with the inexistence of the whistleblowing policy in the company, statutory exceptions on whistleblowing shield the secretary from termination. It is illegal to fire an employee for failing to participate in any act that amounts to wrongdoing (Bierman & Youngblood, 2009). From my investigation, the secretary refused to prepare falsified expense reports for her boss. Hence, the boss cannot fire her for refusal to engage in acts that lead to accounting discrepancies or fraud. Common law exceptions under the public policy law may support a decision to fire John without anticipating any liability where professional codes of behavior and ethics are recognized as the basis for making employment-related decisions.

The limitation of the applicability of any exception that supports the decision for firing John within a few US regions introduces the necessity of taking certain primary actions to limit any liability. Under the company’s codes of ethics, customer communication needs to be conducted responsibly. Criticizing customers implies irresponsible communication. Hence, this claim is a justified cause of termination. Although John can file a case against the company claiming damages for termination without a cause that is provided for in the public policy, it is important to consider whether such a cause constitutes a contractual term in the contract that was made between John and the organization. Besides, it is crucial to confirm whether the cause was a term in the collective bargaining agreement between the organization and all its employees to limit any liability.

South Carolina’s Policy of Employment-at-will Doctrine

South Carolina recognizes the applicability of the employment-at-will doctrine but subjects to provisions of some exceptions, such as the common law and statutory protections. Courts can also impose certain exceptions to the employment-at-will doctrine. Statutory exceptions are specific to certain areas that influence employees, such as discrimination and compensation complaints (Bierman & Youngblood, 2009). For instance, it is a breach of statutory law to fire employees in South Carolina because of belonging to a given racial class, ethnicity, or having a given disability. Nevertheless, courts in the region do not recognize any implied contract exceptions and covenant-of-good-faith.

Common law prohibits any termination that arises from the failure of an employee to discharge any duty, which leads to a public policy violation. The law gives employees a cause of action. They can sue the employer. However, they have to demonstrate that the reason or cause of the termination is due to failure to discharge a duty that breaks the law, such as conformity to subpoena. Shifting the burden of proof to the employee makes it incredibly hard to prove any wrongdoing on the apart of the employer. Muhl (2001) supports this assertion by adding that courts in South Carolina have reluctantly refused to apply exceptions in protecting whistleblower reports on any illegal activity in an organization. The secretary may not enjoy any protection from the common law for blowing the whistle concerning the illegal activities of her boss. The boss’s act of seeking authority for her termination arises from her failure to collaborate in an illegal activity that violates the region’s policy.

Employment-at-will Policy in South Carolina: Barron v. labor Finders of South Carolina

Glenda Barron, an employee of Labor of South Carolina, raised the issues of the case. With the help of the company’s sales manager, the complainant signed a contract that acknowledged Glenda’s employment-at-will status while basing her payment on a commission basis. However, in 2005, he complained that the company supervisor failed to pay his dues. When the supervisor contacted the company owner, oversight delays were cited as the main reason for the failure (Pruet, 2011). The next day, the company terminated Glenda’s services. However, a week later, the company gave Glenda a check with all the owed commission included.

Glenda progressed to sue the employer for wrongful termination in violation of South Carolina’s public policy. The court ruled that employees who were terminated just a day after raising an internal complaint on payment of commissions could not sustain a lawsuit (Pruet, 2011). Although the ruling was consistent with South Carolina’s court interpretation of the application of public policy in a narrow manner, Barron v. labor Finders of South Carolina expands the scope of the claim of wrongful discharge. It opens employers to liabilities that arise from lawsuits, which are brought against them by their terminated employees in South Carolina.

Reference List

Bierman, L., & Youngblood, S. (2009). Employment-At-Will and the South Carolina Experiment. Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, 7(1), 28-59.

Muhl, C. (2001). The Employment-At-Will Doctrine: Three Major Exceptions. Monthly Labor Review, 13(7), 3-11.

Pruet, N. (2011). Wrongful Discharge Claims Limit Employment-At-Will Doctrine in North and South Carolina. Employment Law, 3(1), 19-21.

Roehling, M. (2003). The Employment-At-Will Doctrine: Second Level Ethical Issues and Analysis. Journal of Business Ethics, 47(2), 115-124.

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"Employment-at-will Doctrine in South Carolina." IvyPanda, 2 July 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/employment-at-will-doctrine-in-south-carolina/.

1. IvyPanda. "Employment-at-will Doctrine in South Carolina." July 2, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/employment-at-will-doctrine-in-south-carolina/.


IvyPanda. "Employment-at-will Doctrine in South Carolina." July 2, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/employment-at-will-doctrine-in-south-carolina/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Employment-at-will Doctrine in South Carolina." July 2, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/employment-at-will-doctrine-in-south-carolina/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Employment-at-will Doctrine in South Carolina'. 2 July.

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