Lowcountry woman, others suing Governor Henry McMaster over “return to work” plan

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A Lowcountry woman named as a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit against Governor Henry McMaster over his ‘return-to-work’ order is speaking out.

Deborah Mihal says the order is “dangerous and unsafe.” The lawsuit comes as more are making their return to the office.

The lawsuit claims Governor McMaster’s order discriminates against certain groups of people while putting those returning to work at unnecessary risk to COVID-19 exposure. Mihal, one of the individuals behind the lawsuit is a College of Charleston employee.

The March 5th order required state employees to return to buildings for in-person work. For Mihal, she says the order put her between a rock and a hard place and left her few options.

“You’re telling me that I need to choose my family over my work which I will have to do,” says Mihal. “So I will have to lose my job.”

The bill has faced criticism from working parents and families like Mihal with kids at home in virtual school. Some criticisms include the bill not allowing time for childcare to be arranged, others are calling it dangerous and irresponsible.

“It’s putting working parents, working families in a position where they were being affected negatively,” says Mihal.

“Those critical of the order are pushing back, filing a lawsuit in Columbia against Governor McMaster saying the order goes to far.

“To get childcare is really challenging and expensive and not something that you can pull-off in a matter of weeks in some cases,” says Mihal.

In a statement released from Governor McMaster’s office, Director of Communications Bryan Symmes says the state has worked to make conditions for a return to work safe.

“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 were 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.”

For Mihal, she’s hopeful the lawsuit will open Governor McMaster’s mind on a decision with far reaching impacts.

“And does something in order to either make this go away or significantly change it so that it’s more caring,” says Mihal.

A spokesperson from the College of Charleston sent News 2 the following statement. “The college is continuing to work with employees on a case-by-case basis for employees with any issues stemming from it’s return-to-campus-to-work plan which they say complies with the Governor McMaster’s orders.

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