X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
The full case caption appears at the end of this opinion. JUSTICE MOORE: The trial judge granted respondent’smotion for summary judgment. We affirm. FACTS In December 1994, appellant David R. Lawson, a licensed attorney,took a position with respondent South Carolina Department of Corrections(Department) as an Offender Information Representative. Appellant’simmediate supervisor was respondent Messim Lee. Respondent LorraineFowler was Lee’s supervisor. In February 1995, the Department began seeking candidates for aRecords Manager position. Several internal candidates applied for theposition and three were given a written test. One candidate, DeborahCastaldi, scored the highest and was hired. Appellant alleges that Lee hadtold him he had already pre-selected Castaldi. In March 1995, appellantalleges that he heard Castaldi tell co-workers that she had been allowed toconsult reference materials while taking the test. Appellant wrote a memoto a supervisor in the Department outlining his concerns over Castaldi’shiring. At about this same time, appellant allegedly informed theDepartment that the release dates of several prisoners had beenmiscalculated. On April 25, 1995, Fowler told appellant that his employment wasbeing terminated. Appellant brought this action alleging violations of theWhistleblower statute against Department, conspiracy against Lee andFowler, and retaliation/wrongful discharge and violations of privacy rightsagainst all respondents. The trial court granted Department’s motion forsummary judgment. ISSUE Did the trial court err in granting Department summary judgment? DISCUSSION Summary judgment is appropriate when it is clear there is no genuineissue of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as amatter of law. Citizens & S. Nat’l Bank of South Carolina v. Lanford, 313S.C. 540, 443 S.E.2d 549 (1994). Summary judgment should not be grantedwhen inquiry into the facts is desirable to clarify the application of the law.Hook v. Rothstein, 275 S.C. 187, 268 S.E.2d 288 (1980). a) Wrongful Discharge Cause of Action Appellant contends the trial court erred in granting Departmentsummary judgment on his wrongful discharge cause of action. We disagree. South Carolina has long recognized the doctrine of employment at-will.Culler v. Blue Ride Elec. Cook Inc, 309 S.C. 243, 422 S.E.2d 91(1992);Ludwick v. This Minute of Carolina Inc., 287 S.C. 219, 337 S.E.2d 213(1985). In Ludwick, we adopted a public policy exception to the employmentat-will doctrine and held: “Where the retaliatory discharge of an at-willemployee constitutes violation of a clear mandate of public policy, a cause ofaction in tort for wrongful discharge arises.” Id. at 225, 337 S.E.2d at 216.This public policy exception clearly applies in cases when an employerrequires an employee to violate the law or the reason for the employee’stermination was itself a violation of criminal law. Garner v. MorrisonKnudsen Corp., 318 S.C. 223, 456 S.E.2d 907 (1995). This is not the casehere. Appellant was not asked to violate the law and his termination did notviolate criminal law. Thus, these allegations do not support a wrongfuldischarge action. Further, when a statute creates a substantive right (i.e. theWhistleblower statute) and provides a remedy for infringement of that right,the plaintiff is limited to that statutory remedy. Campbell v. Bi-Lo, 301 S.C.448, 392 S.E.2d 477 (Ct.App.1190). Since appellant alleges a wrongfuldischarge only on the ground of his whistleblowing, he is limited to hisremedy under the Whistleblower Act. Dockins v. Ingles Markets Inc., 306S.C. 496,413 S.E.2d 18, 19 (1992). b) Whistleblower Cause of Action Appellant contends the trial court erred in granting Departmentsummary judgment on his Whistleblower cause of action. We disagree. S.C. Code Ann. � 8-27-2d(A)(Supp. 1999) provides that “no public bodymay dismiss, suspend from employment, demote, or decrease thecompensation of an employee of a public body because the employee files areport with an appropriate authority of wrongdoing.” A “report” is defined as”a written document alleging waste or wrongdoing that contains thefollowing information: (a) the date of disclosure; (b) the name of the employeemaking the report; and (c) the nature of the wrongdoing and the date orrange of dates on which the wrongdoing allegedly occurred.” S.C. Code Ann.�8-27-10(4) (Supp. 1999). Here, appellant filed an affidavit with John Near, the Department’sPersonnel Administrator, on March 30, 1995, describing the details ofCastaldi’s hiring. On that same day, respondent Lee sent a memo toappellant expressing concern over appellant’s work and attitude. Nearresponded to appellant’s affidavit on April 7th stating that he had askedrespondent Fowler to review the allegations. Near stated that respondentFowler reviewed the situation sand met with respondent Lee. RespondentFowler then informed Near that there had been a misunderstanding. Nearconcluded that no state policies had been violated. In his complaint, appellant alleged Department had wrongfullyterminated him because he reported violations of policy in regards to thehiring of Castaldi. Appellant, however, has never pointed to any provisionor policy which would prevent a potential employee from using referencematerials. Since appellant has not pointed to any policy, ethics rule, or otherregulation which he claims as ‘a basis for his Whistleblower action, the trialjudge correctly granted summary judgment. Furthermore, the evidenceindicates another candidate who took the test did not use any referencematerials but that she never asked to use them. On appeal, appellant also refers to problems in the Departmentregarding miscalculating prisoners’ release dates. However, he did notallege in his complaint that Department had terminated him because he hadreported miscalculations of prisoners’ sentences. Even if appellant madesuch allegations in his complaint, he never filed a report with an appropriateauthority concerning the miscalculations as required by the WhistleblowerAct. c) Conspiracy Appellant contends the trial court erred in granting Departmentsummary judgment on his conspiracy cause of action. We disagree. “A civil conspiracy is a combination of two or more persons joining forthe purpose of injuring the plaintiff and causing special damage to theplaintiff.” LaMotte v. Punch Line of Columbia, Inc., 296 S.C. 66, 370 S.E.2d711, 713 (1988). Because no special damages are alleged, the trial courtcorrectly granted Department summary judgment on the conspiracy cause ofaction. Vaught v. Waites, 300 S.C. 201, 387 S.E.2d 91 (Ct.App. 1989).Allegations based solely upon two supervisors discussing whether toterminate an at-will employee would not support a conspiracy cause ofaction. AFFIRMED. FINNEY, C.J., TOAL, WALLER, and BURNETT, JJ., concur.
Lawson v. South Carolina Dept. of Corrections THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA In The Supreme Court David R. Lawson, Appellant, v. South CarolinaDepartment ofCorrections; Messim Lee,in her individual andofficial capacities; andLorraine Fowler, in herindividual and officialcapacities, Respondents. Appeal From Richland County Larry R. Patterson, Circuit Court Judge Opinion No. 25121 Heard March 21, 2000 – Filed May 15, 2000 AFFIRMED Laura P. Valtorta of Columbia, for appellant. Deputy General Counsel Robert Petersen, of Department of Corrections, and Scott Justice, of Haynesworth, Baldwin, Johnson & Greaves, P.A.,both of Columbia; and Vance Drawdy, of Haynsworth, Baldwin, Johnson& Greaves, P.A., of Greenville, for respondents.
 
Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.

More From ALM

Premium Subscription

With this subscription you will receive unlimited access to high quality, online, on-demand premium content from well-respected faculty in the legal industry. This is perfect for attorneys licensed in multiple jurisdictions or for attorneys that have fulfilled their CLE requirement but need to access resourceful information for their practice areas.
View Now

Team Accounts

Our Team Account subscription service is for legal teams of four or more attorneys. Each attorney is granted unlimited access to high quality, on-demand premium content from well-respected faculty in the legal industry along with administrative access to easily manage CLE for the entire team.
View Now

Bundle Subscriptions

Gain access to some of the most knowledgeable and experienced attorneys with our 2 bundle options! Our Compliance bundles are curated by CLE Counselors and include current legal topics and challenges within the industry. Our second option allows you to build your bundle and strategically select the content that pertains to your needs. Both options are priced the same.
View Now

Women Influence & Power in Law Awards 2021

October 07, 2021
Washington, DC

Women Influence & Power in Law Awards honors women lawyers who have made a remarkable difference in the legal profession.


Register

Women Influence & Power in Law (WIPL) 2021

October 06, 2021 - October 08, 2021
Washington, DC

WIPL is the original global forum facilitating women-to-women exchange on leadership and legal issues.


Register

General Counsel Conference Midwest: SuperConference 2021

October 12, 2021 - October 13, 2021
Chicago, IL

GCC Midwest addresses today's legal issues facing companies by providing general counsel with insight and best practices.


Register

Legal Assistant/Case Manager

Houston, Texas, United States

We are looking for EXPERIENCED personal injury case managers/legal assistants to join our team. Come work with us!   The right team m...


Apply Now ›

Employee Benefits Associate

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Duane Morris seeks an associate with 3-4 years of experience to join its Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Group. Candidate shoul...


Apply Now ›

Employment Attorney- Long Island- New York

Mineola, New York, United States

Growing Nassau County firm seeks experienced Employment litigator with 2-6 years experience who wants to collaborate with others at establis...


Apply Now ›

JAVERBAUM WURGAFT HICKS

09/20/2021
NJLJ Web

JAVERBAUM WURGAFT HICKS mourn the passing of our Co-Founding Partner, collegue, and friend.


View Announcement ›

BARTON GILMAN LLP

09/14/2021
CLT Web

Barton Gilman Expands Into Connecticut


View Announcement ›

BARTON GILMAN LLP

09/14/2021
TLI Web

Barton Gilman LLP is excited to announce that its expansion into Philadelphia


View Announcement ›