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South Carolina Civil Rights Laws

When you experience discrimination for any reason, it hurts. There’s little you can do against a bigot exercising his right free speech on the sidewalk, such as a stranger calling you a bad name without physically threatening or touching you. Fortunately, when someone discriminates against you on the basis of being a member of some groups that are protected by law, at least in some contexts, you can legally fight back and assert your rights. 

If you’re denied a job or aren’t promoted or are otherwise discriminated against in the workplace on the basis of race, color, national origin (ancestry or where your family comes from), religion, gender (including pregnancy), family status, age, or disability, you’re civil rights may have been violated. If you’re denied housing or evicted on the basis of any of those, except for age, or because of your family status, such as having children or being a grandparent who lives with and cares for your grandchildren, civil rights laws may protect you. If a hotel or coffee shop won’t serve you on the basis of your race, color, national origin, or religion, the public accommodations civil rights laws may come into place. In any of these cases in South Carolina, the best place to start is making a complaint to the Human Affairs Commission.

The table below outlines some of the main housing and employment civil rights laws in South Carolina, including when private lawsuits are permitted and the applicable time limit within which you can sue.

Code Sections South Carolina Code Sections:
Agency The South Carolina Human Affairs Commission is the state agency responsible for eliminating and preventing unlawful discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability (the protected groups vary depending on the area in which you are discriminated against).

To file an employment, public accommodations (non-employment), or housing discrimination complaint, you can fill out and submit these Human Affairs Commission forms.
Administration Preemption For employment matters, the exclusive way to address these complaints is administrative hearings, unless the agency fails to act on your claim. However, for housing matters, not only does is an administrative action possible, so is suing in civil court.
Private Action Private actions are permitted in housing discrimination cases, but not in employment law cases.

If you want to sue a company or organization for violating your civil rights in any area, you should consult with an experienced South Carolina civil rights attorney.
Attorney Fees You can recover your reasonable attorney fees in housing discrimination cases, but not in employment discrimination cases.
Statute of Limitations The statute of limitations or time limit during which you can sue for the violation of your civil rights is 180 days for employment or housing discrimination with the agency. However, you can sue for a housing discrimination matter for one year in a private civil court action.

Also, if your employment case is dismissed by the agency or the agency fails to take any action on it, you can sue in the civil court within 120 days of the dismissal or one year of the date of the civil rights violation, whichever is earlier.


Note: State laws, including federal laws that states must uphold, change frequently. It’s important to confirm the accuracy of the laws you’re researching by conducting your own legal research or contacting a knowledgeable attorney.

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