South Carolina is an employment at will state. This means that, absent a written contract guaranteeing employment, employers are free to terminate employees at any time, without notice, for any reason (so long as that reason does not violate another law of course!). Conversely, employees are generally free to quit at any time without recourse.
So, most companies in South Carolina use the initial offer letter to convey the terms and conditions of an employee’s employment. The offer letter typically contains items such as job duties, hours, pay rate, and general benefits information. However, what is legally required to be provided? What are some optional items that should be considered?
South Carolina’s Wage Payment Act, S.C. Code Ann. § 41-10-30, requires that employees be provided with “normal hours and wages agreed upon, the time and place of payment, and the deductions which will be made from the wages, including payments to insurance programs.” South Carolina’s Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation has a form that employers can use. Filling out this form correctly will ensure compliance with the law, but many employers want to convey a different message/format with their offer letter.
Another item that is legally required is an at-will employment disclaimer to reinforce that the offer letter is not an employment contract. The disclaimer must meet statutory requirements on conspicuousness – font size, boldness, etc. Finally, a few additional considerations:
- Note contingencies for employment – for instance passing a drug test or background search. If doing a background check, provide appropriate consent and disclosure forms required by law.
- Affirm that applicant is free to enter employment – A strong statement that an applicant would not be violating any contractual agreements with former employers is advisable, and should be carefully drafted to protect the company from future litigation.
As referenced above, other information such as benefits, job responsibilities, and other information may be provided as well. However, less is often more with offer letters, and consult with legal counsel where appropriate.