Lawsuit filed against McMaster for ordering state employees to return to in-person work

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FILE (AP Photo/Sean Rayford, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — A lawsuit was filed Tuesday against Governor Henry McMaster for ordering state employees to return to in-person work.

The lawsuit was filed by Deborah Mihal — a College of Charleston employee — and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of South Carolina. The lawsuit claims the order discriminates against women by forcing some of them to choose between childcare and their job. It also claims McMaster doesn’t have the power to issue an order like this.

“The Governor’s order forces me to choose between protecting the safety of my family and a paycheck,” Mihal said. “Since the beginning of this global pandemic over a year ago, my colleagues and I have been safely and effectively working remotely. There is no urgent need for us to return in-person. I ask the court to protect my family and me from this dangerous and completely unnecessary order.”

On March 5, McMaster ordered state employees to return to work in-person. The American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina said the order is “dangerous, irresponsible, and completely unnecessary.”

The lawsuit claims the order left Mihal without options for childcare or workable accommodations. Mihal hasn’t heard back from the principal of her child’s school on if her child can return to school in-person, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that returning state employees back to in-person work puts them and their families at risk to be exposed to COVID-19.

The ACLU of SC said the order violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the South Carolina Human Affairs Law in a letter sent to McMaster March 30.

Bryan Symmes with the Governor’s office sent News13 the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

“South Carolinians all over the state have been going to work, in person, throughout the last year and they have been able to do it safely. The Department of Administration has done an incredible job working with agency heads to bring state employees back into the office in a safe way, providing flexibility to make accommodations when necessary and giving agencies time to implement safety precautions in the workplace.

“It’s ridiculous to think that requiring employees to go to work is discriminatory in any way. Employees weere given weeks to make any necessary plans for a number of contingencies including childcare, and with 94% of South Carolina’s childcare facilities open for business, there should be no issue for anyone actively working to make those arrangements.”

Read the full lawsuit below.

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