Will the Palmetto State Way spread to D.C.?

By Melissa Cassell, Attorney At Law

The head of South Carolina’s Department of Employment and Workforce may soon run the Wage and Hour Division at the Federal Labor Department in D.C.

The terms “workforce” and “labor” may seem synonymous, but a quick reflection on policies, statutes and history tells us South Carolina deliberately left “labor” out of its department name.

How might the Palmetto State’s approach to employment policies affect the way federal employment laws are administered?

South Carolina has long been a “right-to-work” state, prohibiting the requirement of employees to participate in labor unions as a condition of their employment, likely leading to fewer unions in the state. Arguments abound (and conflict) as to the economic effects of being a “right-to-work” state, but the reasoning behind it is to promote freedom of association and free trade. That spirit continues throughout South Carolina’s employment laws, which rarely, if ever, impose stricter requirements on employers or more benefits for employees than the federal minimum.

If a South Carolinian steps into a leading role at the Labor Department, it is likely that the overtime regulations implemented in the final moments of the Obama era will dissipate. Instead, we may see a glimpse of the Palmetto State’s free-trade spirit with loosened regulations. While we will not see the word “labor” scrubbed  from federal laws and replaced with the term “workforce,” the new regulations may be loosened by decreasing the salary threshold for non-exempt employees or by increasing exempt categories.

Thus, it will undoubtedly be a victory for business owners to bring a little South Carolina to D.C.

Melissa Cassell is an attorney with Morton & Gettys LLC in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Her practice includes employment, business/corporate, and commercial real estate law. He can be reached at (803) 366-3388 or

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