As expected, on April 28, 2021, Governor Henry McMaster signed the “South Carolina COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act” (Senate Bill 147) into law. The act, which provides protection from “coronavirus claims” to a broad class of covered entities and covered individuals, went into effect immediately and “appl[ies] to all civil and administrative causes of action that arise between March 13, 2020, and June 30, 2021, or  days after the final state of emergency is lifted for COVID-19 in [South Carolina], whichever is later, and that are based upon facts occurring during this time period.”
States have been busy when it comes to marijuana laws. Before the mid-2010s, employers tended not to worry about state marijuana laws because of marijuana’s illegal status under federal law. However, those days are over, and state marijuana legalization laws continue to affect how employers can run their workplaces.
The “South Carolina COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act” (Senate Bill 147) is expected to reach Governor Henry McMaster’s desk early this week for his signature. Senate sponsors initially introduced the act on December 9, 2020, and it received final approval in the House of Representatives on April 23, 2021. Similar to its previously introduced predecessors, House Bill 5527 and Senate Bill 1259, the act provides liability protections against coronavirus-based claims for a limited time period for businesses that follow public health guidance in response to the coronavirus public health emergency.
In November 2020, voters in five states (Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota) voted in favor of legalizing medical and/or recreational marijuana. Since then, there have been several developments within the marijuana legalization world that employers may want to keep an eye on as they move forward in 2021.
Elections in the United States are scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Not only will the office of president of the United States be contested, but all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate are up for grabs. At the state level, elections will be held for the governorships of 11 U.S. states and 2 U.S. territories.
At a press briefing on May 11, 2020, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster announced that close contact service providers, fitness and exercise centers, commercial gyms, and commercial and public pools would be permitted to resume operations in a limited capacity on May 18, 2020.
South Carolina has joined the growing number of states that have begun to reopen their economies following weeks of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. On May 1, 2020, Governor Henry McMaster announced that he would lift certain mandatory provisions of his April 6, 2020, statewide “home or work” order and the state would restore health and safety standards to voluntary status effective May 4, 2020.
As decreases in hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19 continue their apparent incremental decline across the country, businesses seek a light at the end of the tunnel. Governors eager to get their citizens back to work have begun to formulate plans for reopening their economies. On Monday, April 20, 2020, South Carolina became one of the first states to implement measures for restarting its economy when Governor Henry McMaster signed an executive order allowing certain retail establishments to begin operating again.
On April 7, 2020, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster issued Executive Order 2020-22. This order allows employers to provide furloughed employees with additional monetary assistance in the form of COVID-19 Support Payments while the impacted individuals are receiving unemployment insurance benefits.
On April 6, 2020, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster issued Executive Order No. 2020-21 (E.O. 2020-21), which implemented a “home or work” mandate. The order directs South Carolina inhabitants to stay in their homes as of 5:00 p.m. on April 7, 2020, except for engaging in “Essential Business,” “Essential Activities,” or “Critical Infrastructure Operations.” The order also mandates that inhabitants practice social distancing and take every possible precaution to prevent the continued spread of COVID-19.
At 4:00 p.m. on March 31, 2020, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster announced Executive Order (EO) No. 2020-17, which, starting April 1, 2020, at 5:00 p.m., closes all “non-essential” businesses, venues, facilities, services, and activities for public use. The executive order will remain in effect for 15 days, but is likely to be renewed or expanded upon in the coming weeks.
In Owens v. Crabtree, Opinion No. 5616 (January 16, 2019), the South Carolina Court of Appeals held that a company’s termination of an employee for using company devices, on company time, to oppose a local building project that the company had a financial stake in was valid and did not violate public policy.
South Carolina is not known as a hotbed of legislative action protecting employee rights, let alone creating new ones. However, several bills are pending in the state legislature that, if passed, would impact South Carolina employers by instituting changes to employment applications, the minimum wage, and credit checks, as well as expanding protections against discrimination.
In 2019, a number of states’ minimum wage rates will increase.
On May 17, 2018, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed the South Carolina Pregnancy Accommodations Act into law.