On March 5, 2021, Governor Henry McMaster issued an executive order mandating all non-essential state employees to return to the office in person. On March 30, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of South Carolina, sent a letter urging Governor McMaster to take immediate action and rescind the executive order, or at minimum, delay the return date to in-person work until the end of the school year, and allow agencies to grant employees any and all individualized reasonable accommodations. When the Governor failed to respond by April 1, the ACLU, joined by the ACLU South Carolina and the law firm of Bloodgood & Sanders LLC, filed a lawsuit challenging the executive order as exceeding the Governor's emergency authority.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a non-essential state employee and the ACLU of South Carolina on behalf of its members who are non-essential state employees. The lawsuit seeks an immediate injunction halting the operation of the discriminatory return-to-in-person-work requirement in the executive order. The suit argues that the executive order not only exceeds the governor's emergency authority because it does not protect the health and safety of state employees--and on the contrary, actively puts their health and safety at risk, ignoring the serious health risks posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but also discriminates against women, who disproportionately bear caregiving responsibilities, and/or may be pregnant or breastfeeding and unable to get vaccinated, as well as people with disabilities, many of whom have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.