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Helping Employees Navigate the South Carolina Wage and Labor Laws

You work for a company in good faith that you will be paid for the services rendered. However, sometimes employers will violate federal and South Carolina wage and labor laws and do not properly pay their employees.

From the beginning of his career, Greenville employment attorney Andy Arnold has handled South Carolina cases involving violation of wage laws, unfair non-compete agreements,, violations of trade practices, and other labor and work-related issues. If your employer has withheld money owed to you, you may have the basis for a civil action to recover your wages. Review the information regarding federal and South Carolina wage laws to see if you have a valid case.

Federal Wage Law: Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division was established to protect the welfare of U.S. workers by requiring a compliance with labor standards. The greatest tool the government has to enhance the worker's welfare is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA sets national standards for a minimum wage, overtime, recordkeeping, and youth employment. States can have labor laws that supplement these federal wage and labor laws, but the state laws need to give at least the same level of protection as the FLSA.

Federal Minimum Wage

The federal minimum wage was raised to $7.25 per hour on July 24, 2009. All part-time and full-time private sector and government employees (on all levels: federal, state, and local) must be compensated at this rate or higher. Some states offer higher minimum wages, which workers in that state are entitled to, but South Carolina currently complies with the federal minimum wage and does not have a separate state minimum wage law.

Some exceptions to the federal minimum wage include:

  • Tipped employees: Employees who earn regular tips as a part of their wages currently have to be paid a minimum of $2.13 per hour from the employer and must meet at least the standard minimum wage level when tips are added to their wages. (For example, if an employee works 20 hours per week, they must earn at least a minimum of $145 per week – 20 multiplied by $7.25 – through the $2.13 per hour and tips.)
  • Student workers: Vocational education students and full-time students working in retail or service establishments, agriculture, or institutions of higher education may also earn a wage lower than the federal minimum wage.
  • Workers under 20 years old: During their first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment with an employer, youth under the age of 20 can earn a minimum wage as low as $4.25 per hour.

FLSA Overtime Regulations

The Fair Labor Standards Act requires that all non-exempt employees receive overtime pay (at a rate of no less than time and a half of regular rate of pay) for any hours worked over 40 in a standard workweek.

Employers are not required to pay exempt employees an overtime rate. Just because you are a salaried employee, it does not mean that you are an exempt employee and are ineligible for overtime pay. Some of the categories for exempt employees include:

  • commissioned sales people
  • computer professionals (must be paid at least $27.63 per hour)
  • drivers and mechanics employed by a motor carrier whose duties affect safety of vehicles
  • executives, administrative, professional, and outside sales people
  • farmworkers (may also be exempt from minimum wage requirements)
  • seasonal workers

It is important to note that employers hold the burden of proving that an employee should actually be exempt. If a non-exempt and an exempt worker perform the same duties, there is an issue with the exemption status.

Other FLSA Guidelines

The FLSA outlines many wage and labor laws that protect employees. One of the most-important protections built into this federal act is the fact that an employee cannot be fired or otherwise discriminated against for filing a complaint for a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act or for participating in a legal proceeding related to FLSA. This allows employees to alert the government of any violations without the fear of losing their jobs.

The FLSA also sets guidelines for child labor laws, recordkeeping of wages and hours worked, enforcement of the labor laws, recovery of back wages, and equal pay provisions.

South Carolina Wage Law: South Carolina Wage Payment Statute

The South Carolina Wage Payment statute (South Carolina Code § 41-10-10 and the provisions that follow) is the description of the state's labor laws dealing with wages. In addition to the federal labor laws that protect employees (as noted above), the South Carolina wage laws offer additional safeguards.

Notification of Wages, Bonuses, and Commissions

The wage and labor laws in South Carolina require that employers notify their employees at the time of hiring the expected work hours and wages for the job. The employer also is required to list the time and place of payment and deductions (including insurance policy deductibles) that will be taken from the employee's paycheck. The state allows the employer to conspicuously post the wage payment terms at or near the place of work.

The South Carolina code of laws also requires that the employer properly pay the employee's wages. South Carolina Code § 41-10-40 states "every employer in the State shall pay all wages due in lawful United States money or by negotiable warrant or check bearing even date with the payday." If the employer needs to withhold or divert any part of the employee's paycheck, due a requirement or allowance by South Carolina or federal law, the employee must be given written notification.

Payment of Wages and Commissions to Discharged Employees

South Carolina wage laws protect the employee to ensure that the employee is paid wages that he or she has earned. According to South Carolina Code § 41-10-50, "When an employer separates an employee from the payroll for any reason, the employer shall pay all wages due to the employee within forty-eight hours of the time of separation or the next regular payday which may not exceed thirty days." As noted in this code of labor law, it does not matter if the employee resigned, quit, or was fired; the employer must pay all wages due.

South Carolina Code § 41-10-10 defines wages as "all amounts at which labor rendered is recompensed, whether the amount is fixed or ascertained on a time, task, piece, or commission basis, or other method of calculating the amount and includes vacation, holiday, and sick leave payments which are due to an employee under any employer policy or employment contract." As outlined in the state's wage laws, if you were released from a company and you are still due commissions as outlined in your contract, your employer must pay all of the money owed either within 48 hours or at the next regular pay period, which cannot exceed 30 days from the last day of employment.

However, even though the South Carolina labor laws clearly define the payment requirements of commissions and bonuses to separated employees, sometimes the case is not as cut and dry as the employee would hope. As Greenville employment attorney Andy Arnold outlines in his blog post on departure policies regarding commissions, some companies have caveats written into a contract regarding when a bonus or commission is actually earned. As long as these policies are clearly written and do not violate any wage or labor laws, an employer can legal withhold any commission or bonus that was not completely earned. It is important that you are well aware of your employer's commission and bonus policy, especially if there is a chance that you may be leaving the company soon.

Filing a South Carolina Labor Lawsuit for Violation of Wage Laws

Employers who violate state wage laws and owe back pay to an employee are not only subject to warnings and fines from the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, but are also subject to civil court proceedings in which an employee can seek three times the amount of unpaid wages and attorney fees.

If your current or former employer has violated either federal or South Carolina wage laws, you may have a case. However, you cannot wait to file a lawsuit. Any civil action to recover owed wages must be filed within three years of the wages becoming due. Extending beyond this statute of limitations can nullify your case.

Contact Greenville Labor Lawyer Andy Arnold for More Information

If you need to file a civil lawsuit against an employer for violating South Carolina's wage laws, you need an attorney who is familiar with the labor laws of the state. Greenville employment lawyer Andy Arnold has been handling labor and wage-related cases in South Carolina since the early 1990s. If you believe you have a case, contact the Law Office of W. Andrew Arnold to schedule a consultation.