Compliance Watch:
What are my rights as an hourly employee in South Carolina?

January 4th 2024

Understanding your rights as an hourly employee is crucial for ensuring fair work treatment and safeguarding yourself from potential work exploitation. It empowers you to steer the course of your career trajectory confidently and seek legal recourse if your rights are infringed upon.

As you punch in and out daily, your income plays a significant role in determining your status within the professional landscape. Given the differences in employment regulations across U.S. states, you may find yourself contemplating your particular employment entitlements within your state and consider methods to ensure they adhere with relevant regulations. 

Therefore, this article is particularly crafted to address your curiosity regarding various aspects of employment as a working employee. Its objective is to provide you with essential information needed to guarantee the legal protection of your employment rights throughout your employment.

This Article Covers

Defining an Hourly Employee in South Carolina
Wage and Hour Regulations in South Carolina
Rest Laws in South Carolina
Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in South Carolina
Termination of Employment in South Carolina

Defining an Hourly Employee in South Carolina

What is Hourly Employment in South Carolina?

Generally, the payment structure for hourly employees is dependent upon the actual hours worked per pay period, resulting in a varying gross pay from paycheck to paycheck. This variability is directly proportional with the hours worked during a specific period.

Due to the work nature of hourly employment, employers often use time tracking tools to document payable hours, ensuring proper compensation. In contrast, salaried employees earn a predetermined annual amount, irrelevant to the hours worked.

Moreover, hourly workers often have the opportunity to earn overtime compensation, a benefit unavailable to certain salaried employees (if categorized as exempt). Consequently, due to these variances in employment structures, hourly employees may have lesser job benefits, such as health insurance or retirement plans, unlike salaried employees.

What are the Key Differences Between Salaried and Hourly Employees in South Carolina?

Aspect Hourly Employees Salaried Employees
Compensation Hourly employees are compensated for each hour worked. Salaried employees are given a fixed compensation on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis. 
Minimum wage Hourly employees are legally entitled under federal law to earn the federal minimum hourly wage. Salaried employees may not be legally entitled under federal law to earn the federal minimum hourly wage.
Overtime Pay Hourly employees are legally entitled under federal law to earn the federal overtime pay requirement. Salaried employees may not be legally entitled under federal law to earn the federal overtime pay requirement.
Employment benefits Hourly employees may have lesser employment benefits. Salaried employees may have more employment benefits.
Rest and Meal Breaks Hourly employees have no legal entitlement to rest and meal breaks as stipulated by federal law. Salaried employees have no legal entitlement to rest and meal breaks as stipulated by federal law.
Compensation Stability An hourly employee’s income is entirely dependent on the actual number of hours worked. A salaried employee’s income is consistently given at a fixed amount irrespective of the number of hours worked.

To learn more about South Carolina labor laws, you can access our informative guides on understanding your rights as a salaried employee in South Carolina and discovering how to run payroll in South Carolina.

Wage and Hour Regulations in South Carolina

What are the Maximum Weekly Working Hours in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, there are no state laws that implement the maximum working hours that is permissible for an employee to work in a week and the same holds true for the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Therefore, employees typically work according to the number of hours determined by their employer.

However, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does explicitly mention that non-exempt employees who work over 40 hours in a work week are to be compensated one and a half times their regular hourly wage. Furthermore, the federal overtime regulations exempts specific employees from receiving overtime compensation. Therefore, this general overtime rule is inapplicable to employees who work in certain occupations.

What is the Minimum Wage for Hourly Employees in South Carolina?

It is important to note that the State of South Carolina has no minimum wage law of its own and due to this absence, the laws set forth in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act apply. Hence, in relation to minimum wage, the minimum wage in South Carolina is the current federal minimum wage of $7.25. That means, an hourly employee in South Carolina would earn a minimum weekly wage of $290 for every 40-hour workweek.

Do All Employees Earn the Minimum Wage in South Carolina?

While some employees are eligible to earn the federally mandated minimum wage in South Carolina, there are few categories of employees that are legally exempt under federal law from earning the required minimum wage as well as overtime pay. These types of employees comprise of:

  • Tipped Employees: Tipped employees are paid a minimum hourly pay of $2.13 under federal law. Although, the hourly wage in addition with the tips received must meet the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
  • Full-time students: Part-time working high school or college students may receive $6.16 as the minimum hourly wage (which accounts for 85% of the federal minimum hourly wage) for up to 20 hours of work in a week.
  • Employees below 20 years old: According to federal law, employees below the age of 20 may earn an hourly training pay of $4.25 within the first 90 days of commencing employment.
  • Outside salespeople.
  • Casual babysitters.
  • Employees of certain seasonal amusement or recreational establishments. 
  • Seamen employed on foreign vessels.
  • Newspaper delivery employees.
  • Employees working in fishing operations,
  • Administrative, executive, or professional employees.
  • Employees who are computer professionals.

How Many Hours Qualify As Overtime and What is the Associated Pay in South Carolina?

Currently, there are no state laws in South Carolina that regulate overtime compensation for employees. Hence, in this regard, South Carolina adheres to the overtime rule established under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) law. Under federal regulations, any hours worked which extends the regular 40-hour workweek are categorized as overtime hours, and employees must be compensated at a fixed hourly wage rate of one and a half times their regular hourly wage. Therefore, an hourly wage earner in South Carolina would typically earn a minimum hourly overtime pay of $10.88.

In addition to the previously mentioned categories of employees who are exempt from the federal minimum wage and overtime pay requirements under federal law, the employees listed below are specifically only exempt from earning South Carolina’s federally mandated overtime compensation which are as follows: 

  1. Specific commissioned employees of retail or service establishments; auto, truck, trailer, farm implement, boat, or aircraft sales-workers; or parts-clerks and mechanics servicing autos, trucks, or farm implements, who are employed by non-manufacturing establishments that primarily sell these items to ultimate purchasers;
  2. Employees of railroads and air carriers, taxi drivers, certain employees of motor carriers, seamen on American vessels, and local delivery employees paid on approved trip rate plans;
  3. Employees who are announcers, news editors, and chief engineers of specific non-metropolitan broadcasting stations;
  4. Employees employed in domestic service and live in the employer’s residence;
  5. Motion picture theatre employees; and
  6. Employees who are farmers.

Rest Laws in South Carolina

What are the Offered Meal and Rest Breaks for Hourly Employees in South Carolina?

While rest and meal breaks generally help alleviate stress, improve overall health and boost employees’ productivity for longer periods in the latter half of the working day, there are no state or federal laws that mandate the provision of such breaks in the state of South Carolina. Uncommonly, there is also an absence of break laws at federal and state standards for minors employed in South Carolina.

Although both state and federal laws do not promote mandatory work and meal breaks in South Carolina, the provisions outlined in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) require employers to compensate employees for rest breaks that are 20 minutes or less in duration. However, there is no necessity for such compensation in relation to meal breaks that last 30 minutes or longer, provided that the employee is completely disengaged from work duties during the break.

Moreover, the South Carolina Lactation Support Act obligates employers to provide employed nursing mothers with reasonable daily break times and space for her to pump breast milk for her child. In addition, a mother may choose to breastfeed her child in any location where she and her child are authorized to be.

What Laws Govern Time Off and Leaves for Hourly Employees in South Carolina?

Leave benefits are conventionally given to employees to allow them to take time away from work to attend to personal matters or fulfil legal obligations which serve the public interest. In the state of South Carolina, employees are entitled with the following mandatory leaves listed below:

  1. Military leave: Employees who are military members are covered under the federal legal provisions of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). This federal Act grants employees 5 years of uncompensated leave to serve the military with the chance of returning to their former employment position. The Act also permits the continuance of group healthcare benefits for 24 months in their  leave.
  2. Bone Marrow donor leave: Under section 44-43-80 of South Carolina’s statutes, an employee who works 20 or more hours in a week and who wishes to donate bone marrow may be eligible for paid leave, if they are hired by an employer with 20 or more employees.
  3. Witness leave: Under section 41-1-70 of South Carolina’s statutes, an employee who is a victim or witness cannot be retaliated against in their employment for complying with a subpoena.
  4. Jury duty leave: According to section 41-1-70 of South Carolina’s statutes, an employee is entitled to take unpaid employment-protected leave for responding to a jury summons or serving on a jury and cannot have personnel actions taken against them in retaliation by their employer for fulfilling such duties.
  5. Family and Medical leave: The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that furnishes employees with 12 weeks of uncompensated leave in a year for the purpose of addressing matters pertaining to; child adoption or delivery, a serious medical issue affecting either the employee or their immediate family member or specific military-related activities. Employees are eligible for this leave if: 
    • They were employed by the same employer for at least 12 months before utilizing their leave.
    • They must have worked for a minimum time of 1,250 hours during the 12 month duration of employment under the same employer preceding their leave.
    • The employer has 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius.

Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in South Carolina

What are the Laws Regarding Pay Deductions for Hourly Employees in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, the state’s statutory laws permit employers to make deductions from an employee’s paycheck only if: 

  • They have been authorized to do so by by state or federal law, or
  • They have given written notice to the employee of the withholding or deduction upon the commencement of employment.
  • They have given the employee seven days written notice prior to the withholding or deduction of wages.

Furthermore. the legal wage deduction requirements above must be complied with before deducting wages for:

  • shortages,
  • damages,
  • rent,
  • uniforms,
  • tools, or
  • any other necessary item.

Additionally, it is incumbent upon the employer to issue each employee with an itemized statement detailing their gross wages and deductions per pay period, as enforced under section 41-10-30 of South Carolina’s statutes.

What are the Provided Hourly Employees Entitlements Under South Carolina State Law?

  • Minimum wage: Hourly workers acquire the legal entitlement to earn the federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25 per hour of work in the state of South Carolina.
  • Overtime: South Carolina’s hourly workers acquire the legal entitlement to earn overtime pay for every hour worked overtime surpassing the 40-hour workweek at a pay rate of one and a half times their typical hourly wage.
  • Healthcare continuation coverage benefits: An employee with a continuous six-month enrollment in group health insurance, whose coverage terminated for reasons  unrelated to premium non-payment, has the right to continue health coverage benefits. This entitlement remains for the rest of the month in which coverage terminates and an additional six months, provided that the group policy or its successor is still active, and the employee or member pays premiums in a timely manner.
  • Worker’s compensation insurance: In the state of South Carolina, employers with four or more employees must provide their employees with worker’s compensation insurance, in accordance with the Worker’s Compensation Act. This policy serves to compensate employees who have sustained work-related injuries and occupational diseases by offsetting lost wages, amounting to two thirds of the employee’s average weekly income, during the period when the employee is unable to work. The benefits of this insurance policy includes:
    • Temporary disability and permanent disability benefits.
    • Partial disability and total disability benefits.
    • Compensation for disfigurement.
    • Reimbursement for medical travel expenses
    • Death benefits for fatal work accidents
  • Unemployment insurance benefits: South Carolina’s employees may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits administered by the Department of Employment and Workforce. This insurance offsets lost wages during the transitional period before an unemployed employee finds the next job opportunity. For South Carolina employees to be eligible for such benefits, they must meet the following three requirements below: 
    • Past earnings must meet minimum requirements; 
    • They must have lost their job through no fault of their own;
    • They must be available to work and are actively seeking employment opportunities.

What are the Provided Hourly Employee Protections Under South Carolina State Law?

The implementation of guidelines and regulations established by employment laws serve to ensure employees are treated fairly and ethically in their employment. Hence, these legal guidelines offer protections and implement structure for both employers and employees in their employment relationships. Employment laws comprise of laws across local, state, and federal jurisdictions. In the State of South Carolina, employees are protected in a number of aspects in relation to their employment in accordance with state and federal standards. The following list below comprises several key ways in which employees are legally protected in their employment.

  • Pregnancy employment protection: The South Carolina Human Affairs Law (SCHAL) is a state law that protects pregnant employees by enabling them to perform their work without facing discrimination. It also requires employers with 15 or more employees to reasonably accommodate pregnant individuals in relation to their medical needs resulting from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions (including, but not limited to, lactation). Such reasonable accommodations include: breaks that are more frequent or longer in length; a private non-bathroom place for pumping milk; permitting the employee to sit more frequently; help with manual labor; temporary transfer to a vacant employment position that is less-strenuous in nature and more.
  • Workplace health and safety: The South Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Act enforces occupational safety and health standards in all private and public workplaces within the South Carolina state. The Act ensures that employees are protected from workplace hazards (that are likely to cause serious injury or death in their work environment) and from facing employment discrimination for filing complaints concerning poor working conditions or exercising their rights under state or federal law.
  • Child labor protection: In the employment aspect of child labor, the provision of South Carolina’s statutory laws protects the health and wellbeing of minors in employment by restricting the types of jobs they may work in as well as the number of hours they are permitted to work. In brief, state laws prohibit minors from engaging in occupations that involve the usage of any heavy dangerous machinery, toxic substances or are strenuous in nature. The laws also regulate their permissible working hours, taking into consideration the periods when school is in session and specific times of the day.
  • Protection from political opinion discrimination: According to section 16-17-560 of South Carolina’s statutes, an employee cannot be discriminated against, by having their employment terminated, because of their political opinions or their exercise of political rights and privileges.
  • Smokers discrimination protection: According to section 41-1-85 of South Carolina’s statutes, an employee in South Carolina is protected by statutory law from having personnel actions taken against them for the usage of tobacco products outside the workplace.

Termination of Employment in South Carolina

What are the Termination Laws for Hourly Employees in South Carolina?

Like most other states across the U.S, the nature of employment relationships in South Carolina operates on an at-will basis. In simpler terms, both the employer and employee acquire the flexibility to terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any or no reason, provided that such reasons do not violate the law. However, this general concept has several protected exceptions that limit an employer’s flexibility to terminate the employment relationship with their employee. These exceptions include:

  1. Breach of employment contract: The explicit terms of an oral or written employment contract may outline specific grounds for termination, which the employer must strictly adhere to. However, even in the absence of a written or oral contract, the terms of an implied contract may regulate the termination of an employment relationship. For example, if an employee is terminated after one strike when the employee handbook explicitly requires termination only after three strikes, the employee may file a claim against the employer for wrongful termination due to such contractual breaches.
  2. Retaliation: An employer cannot terminate an employee’s employment in retaliation for the employee exercising their federal or state legal rights or reporting poor workplace conditions or unlawful employment practices to appropriate authorities, such as the employer’s failure to pay overtime.
  3. Workplace discrimination: In South Carolina, employees cannot be terminated based on their race, color, country of origin, age, genetics, pregnancy or disability. Furthermore, employees cannot be fired in retaliation for exercising their protected rights such as whistleblowing unlawful employment practices or filing a claim for worker’s compensation.
  4. Public policy: Employers are prohibited from terminating their employees based on grounds that clearly violate public policy. Consequently, an employee is rightly entitled to file a lawsuit against their employer if such circumstances arise. In the state of South Carolina, there are various public policy exceptions that can safeguard an employee: 
    • The employee refused to actively participate in the illegal activities of the employer;
    • The employee complied with what was asked of her/him in a subpoena; and
    • The employee refused to violate the law on behalf of the employer.

In addition, South Carolina’s statutory laws require employers to furnish terminated employees with their final paycheck either within 48 hours of the termination or by the next regularly scheduled pay period.

Should Severance Pay Be Provided to Hourly Employees in South Carolina?

Severance pay is the monetary compensation that is paid to employees upon the separation of their employment as a token of appreciation for their contributions to the company. Its purpose serves as a financial cushion to employees in the interim between changing jobs and helps to mitigate the consequences of sudden loss of employment. Severance pay is typically calculated based on the employee’s length of service and is usually paid as a lump-sum or in the course of several instalments

In the United States, there are no laws that compel an employer to pay severance fee to an employee, unless it has been otherwise stated in the terms of the employment contract or collective bargaining agreement. Therefore, in the state of South Carolina, employers are not legally required to offer severance pay to employees as it is typically given at the discretion of employers.

Final Thoughts

In summary, acquiring a solid understanding of your employment rights is imperative, as it serves as a fundamental basis in nurturing a fair and respectful work environment during the course of your career. 

Furthermore, staying current with the latest legal developments concerning employment is paramount in not only ensuring your rights are safeguarded in the rapidly developing landscape of employment, but also in the making of informed decisions and resorting to appropriate legal remedies in case of any employment disputes.

Important Cautionary Note

When making this guide we have tried to make it accurate but we do not give any guarantee that the information provided is correct or up-to-date. We therefore strongly advise you seek advice from qualified professionals before acting on any information provided in this guide. We do not accept any liability for any damages or risks incurred for use of this guide.