Attorney: S.C. employers could fire an employee who doesn’t want to work in-person

Updated: Apr. 7, 2021 at 8:45 AM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - A lot of workers are comfortable working from home, but as vaccine eligibility rises many offices are opening back up full-time.

If an employer is asking an employee to come back in-person but they don’t feel safe, employers do have the right to terminate them.

Defense attorney Greg McCollum with Complete Legal Defense Team said South Carolina is a right-to-work state.

“Employers have the option of terminating an employee for lack of business, not following procedures or just having too many employees,” McCollum said. “So in general, employers can terminate somebody if a person is unwilling to work or afraid to come to work. That would be a basis for that.”

McCollum noted he believes employers are more considerate than that and are understanding. The reason is because they’re having a hard time keeping people at work in-person, if that applies to their job.

He said businesses need more employees, so he believes most employers will give something like a leave of absence or special accommodations if they can.

“Employers if they said okay if you’re afraid to come to work you don’t have to come to work, then the individual isn’t going to get paid. But if they can get unemployment, that’s a good thing and that seems to be an issue right now because people seem to be making as much or more on unemployment as if they would be working,” McCollum said.

McCollum is referring to an unpaid leave of absence if the employee is wanted back at work in-person but doesn’t feel comfortable yet. Another issue the employers could face if they grant a leave of absence is if it’s equal and fair to other employees.

For example, if an employee receives a leave of absence from work and told their co-worker who wants it too, it creates a bigger problem for the boss.

McCollum said for the legality of it, the employers might not have any other choice but termination if the employee refuses to come back.

The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce said 125,000 South Carolinians are drawing unemployment benefits and 87,000 jobs are open.

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