Georgia Labor Laws: A Complete Guide to Wages, Breaks, Overtime, and More (2024)

In this article, we’ll dive deep into Georgia’s labor laws, with details on all the important aspects of the state’s regulations on your employees.
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Running a business is hard work, especially if you have to handle everything from marketing and branding to operations management. You’re left with little to no time to learn the intricacies of employee laws and regulations. Maybe you know a thing or two about workers’ compensation and employee discrimination, but how about other aspects of Georgia’s labor laws?

Below, we’ll break down Georgia labor laws so you can run your business confidently, without the risk of getting in trouble with the authorities.

Meals and Breaks in Georgia

No law compels employers in Georgia to provide meals or breaks for their employees. However, most employers still provide short breaks (five to 20 minutes) and quick meals for their employees. Breaks are still work hours and thus compensable, but only if they take less than 30 minutes.

It’s also illegal for employers to impose unreasonable bathroom break restrictions on employees. This law only applies to bathroom breaks, not meal and rest breaks. Employers can restrict meal and rest breaks at their discretion. They can also deduct pay for unnecessarily long breaks if they wish.

Leave and Paid Time Off (PTO) in Georgia

Like most states, PTO in Georgia can be accrued or rolled over. Accrued PTOs typically have a 360-hour limit, which translates to 45 days. For rolled-over PTOs, the employer outlines the limit in their PTO policy.

Employer Obligations Regarding Paid and Unpaid Leave

In Georgia law only focuses on unpaid leave. Employees are entitled to 24 calendar days of unpaid leave and 15 days of unpaid leave. However, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employers get not more than 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually. They also qualify for unpaid leave for:

In Georgia, employers can choose whether to grant their employees paid time off. However, they can create lawfully-recognized leave and PTO policies. These policies outline whether the employee gets compensated for the accrued leave period. As such, any issues on vacation and PTO leaves will be indicated in employment contracts.

Georgia places a massive emphasis on contracts. Breaching of the employment contract by either party could translate to hefty consequences. Despite the flexible laws, most employers still provide leave and PTO but cap the number of accrued days for compensation.

Break or Leave Type in Georgia

Georgia Sick Days

Eligibility: Full-time employees
Duration: 15 days

Georgia Vacation Time

No requirements

Georgia Holiday Leave

Eligibility: State Employers
Duration: Up to 12 days per year (paid)

Georgia Family and Medical Leave

Eligibility: Individuals who work for the state for at least 12 months
Duration: Up to 12 work weeks/year

Georgia Bereavement Leave

No requirements

Georgia Military Leave

Eligibility: State employees
Duration: Up to 5 years

Georgia Firefighter Leave

No requirements

Georgia Voting Leave

Eligibility: All workers
Duration: Two hours

Georgia Jury Duty Leave

Eligibility: All employees
Duration: For the scheduled duration

Overtime Regulations in Georgia

Georgia is like many other states when it comes to overtime regulations – overtime is fixed at 1.5 times the regular hourly wage by federal law. However, unlike other states, Georgia workers may receive overtime pay after exceeding 40 hours worked in a week.

All employees covered by FLSA with an annual salary of $35,568 or more are eligible for overtime. Entitlement for the same, however, depends on the employee’s duties, not their title or salaries.

How the Overtime Rate is Calculated

In Georgia, overtime calculations include bonuses, commissions, and additional compensations like allowances. The formula is pretty simple:

Commission for overtime = Half your hourly wage

To get the standard rate:

For instance, an employee gets $10 as their hourly wage and $50 in bonuses in a 40-hour workweek. The employee is eligible for an hourly rate of $10 * 40 hours plus $50 for bonuses. Divide by the 40 work hours per week, and you get an hourly rate of  $12.25. Half this, and you should get an overtime commission of $6.125. Total overtime compensation thus becomes $16.125.

Are There Any Exceptions to Overtime?

Yes, quite a few employees are exempt from overtime. The Department of Labor raised the earnings exemption criteria for overtime from $455 to $684 per week as of 2020. Employees exempted from overtime include:

Wages and Benefits in Georgia

According to the U.S. Labor Law Center, the minimum wage in Georgia is $5.15 per hour. However, employers governed by the Federal Labor Standard Act (FLSA) must pay a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Note that the FLSA only applies to businesses dealing with interstate commercial goods.

Georgia law stipulates different minimum wage requirements for employees earning gratuities (tips). The minimum wage for tipped employees in Georgia (waiters and bartenders) is $2.13.

It’s also worth noting that employers who make less than $40,000 in sales a year are exempted from Georgia’s minimum wage requirements. The same goes for employers with less than five employees. Other exceptions to minimum wage standards are farmers and employers who provide free room and board for their employees.

That said, the law also requires employers in Georgia to pay workers at least twice every month. This means the employees’ monthly salaries are divided into equal payments made after two weeks. Fired employees who quit are still entitled to pay on the next payday. Tips don’t form part of the salary.

Mandatory Employee Benefits in Georgia

Georgia takes employee benefits very seriously, with harsh penalties for non-compliance. The benefits protect the workers’ rights and ensure a conducive work environment. They also shield employees from liabilities in case of work-related injuries and illnesses.

Georgia has also made provisions to ensure employees get the benefits and accommodations they deserve. Here are some of the most common benefits:

Common Benefits in Georgia

Workers Compensation

All business owners with three or more employees must provide workers’ compensation insurance.

Retirement Plans

Georgia provides a comprehensive plan for all full-time eligible employees under the Employees Retirees System (ERS). All eligible employees MUST participate. However, employers have no obligation to create retirement plans for their employees.

Family and Medical Leave

Employers must allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for their sick family members. Employees with seriously ill family members can receive up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave.

Voting Leave

Georgia law upholds every employee’s right to vote by allowing them to take paid time off work to vote.

Military Leave

According to the USERRA ACT of 1994, employees can take up to five years off their jobs for military duty and get reinstated when they return. Military leave applies to:

Prevailing Wages in Georgia

A prevailing wage is a baseline rate for similar employees working within the same geographical location. Georgia doesn’t have a prevailing wage, but for federally funded construction projects, the Davis-Bacon and other similar acts come into play.

Under Davis-Bacon, contractors and subcontractors (mainly in construction) who receive federal assistance over $2,000 must pay a prevailing wage.

This wage, consisting of the prevailing wage and fringe benefits, shouldn’t be less than the local prevailing wage. The Department of Labor will determine this wage, and all eligible employers must follow suit. Other requirements of the Davis Bacon Act include:

Since Georgia does not have its own prevailing wage rates, employers may check federal resources like SAM.gov for current prevailing wage rates in the state.

Hiring Practices in Georgia

The hiring practice regulations in Georgia are similar to what you’d find in other states. In summary, the law requires you to:

If you feel you’ve experienced any employment discrimination, you can contact GCEO (Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity) at 404-656-1736 in Atlanta.

Advertising Job Vacancies

The law requires you to use clear and concise language in your job posting. You should also avoid using any language that may be termed as discriminatory. In your job postings, be sure to include:

Background Checks and Criminal Histories

In Georgia, you can conduct background checks for job applicants only after their first interview You can search federal, state, and county records for criminal history. However, sealed records like juvenile and expunged records are out of bounds.

That said, there are no restrictions on how far the background check can go, except for credit checks. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), employers can only conduct employee credit checks on their most recent seven years.

Negligent Hiring

You’re legally obligated to hire safe and responsible employees, so the state will hold you liable for knowingly hiring employees that could endanger the public and its property. 

Negligent hiring laws are essential in the construction industry, where accidents are rife. As such, employers should exercise reasonable care when hiring. This is as simple as conducting background checks and having a thorough vetting process.

Medical Examinations

Medical examinations ensure job candidates are physically and mentally up to the task. However, employers in Georgia can conduct medical examinations only after hiring the prospects and before the effective date of their employment. This means you can’t ask questions concerning the applicant’s health during the interview or exclude ailing candidates from your job postings. 

Any medical exams should be standard for all employees and only check for ailments that could compromise the employees’ working capabilities. Only a qualified medical practitioner can conduct the examination.

Afterward, the medical practitioner will inform you of the patient’s health condition. If the employee appears unable to fulfill their required tasks, the medical professional may suggest possible accommodations for the employee.

Drug Testing

In Georgia, you can conduct employee drug tests at will. Conducting these tests will get you a Drug-Free Certification and a 7.5% discount on your workers’ compensation. However, you can conduct drug tests only on current employees or prospective ones with conditional offers for employment.

Health and Safety Standards in Georgia

Two categories of safety regulations surface when it comes to Georgia safety standards. First is the federal Occupational Safety and Hazard Act (OSHA), covering most workers. The second is Georgia code § 34-2-10, which states:

Georgia boasts a state-specific employee safety and health policy, the Georgia Onsite Consultation Program (GOCP). The program provides small and medium-sized business owners free safety and hazard consultations so they don’t play the ignorance card when caught flat-footed. 

That said, employees have the legal right to report safety violations and unsafe working conditions.

You can report any safety concerns about your workplace at the federal Occupational Safety Health Administration website.

Child Labor Laws in Georgia

Georgia don’t allow employment of children under 14 in most jobs, save for a few exceptions like farm work, newspaper delivery, and others. Children aged 12 to 16 may also require work permits from their school before getting jobs. The permits require parental approval and are only granted to those with a certain academic standing.

The state also has time restrictions on children’s working hours.

For starters, children aged 14 and 15 can’t go to work before 7 a.m. and no later than 9 p.m. During the school year, they cannot work during school hours or more than three hours on a school day.  However, they can work up to eight hours daily and 40 a week during holidays.

Industry-specific child labor regulations in Georgia include:

Employee Termination and Resignation in Georgia

Being an at-will state, Georgia permits employers to fire employees but at-will. However, the “public policy” exceptions override the at-will statute at times. “Public Policy” here means employers can’t fire employees for reasons the public would deem unfair or illegal. These exceptions include:

Similarly, employees can resign whenever they wish for whatever reason, with a few exemptions. For instance, contractual tenures are exempt from the at-will statutes. The party breaching the contract will be held culpable.

That said, there are no legal obligations to give employees notice before their termination. Likewise, employees aren’t required to notify their employers of their resignations in advance. However, most employers and employees give at least two weeks’ notice of their decision as a show of respect. 

Under the Fair Labor Standard Act, employers must compensate fired workers for work done before resignation/termination. Employers should make this payment on the next payday. The payment should include regular wages, overtime, bonuses, and commissions. 

There are no state-specific laws on when and how you should pay recently fired employees. Employers also have no obligation to pay severance to fired employees, but employees can still get severance under employment contracts, company policies, and collective bargaining agreements.

Unemployment Benefits in Georgia

Unemployment benefits ease the frustration of being out of the job. Georgia, through the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL), offers these benefits to qualified employees. To be eligible for unemployment benefits in Georgia, you must:

Employees must file an unemployment benefits claim to receive compensation for their unemployment status. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide for doing just that:

Alternatively, call 1-877-709-8185 and tell the virtual agent you want to file an unemployment benefits claim. The agent will give you instructions on filing the claim and more information about your eligibility.

Employer Responsibilities for Unemployment in Georgia

Employers play background roles in the unemployment process, but important ones nonetheless. Some common duties for employers in filing unemployment benefits include record keeping, providing wage information, and responding to notices.

The mentioned responsibilities are just the tip of the iceberg. You can learn more about other responsibilities by visiting the GDOL website here. Click here to view some employer FAQs about unemployment benefits and insurance.

Penalties for Noncompliance in Georgia

Failing to comply with Georgia labor laws is asking for unnecessary trouble. Fines and civil lawsuits could easily run a business to the ground.

The severity of these penalties depends on the act violated. The violations can be criminal or civil, although the former is rare. Unsurprisingly, criminal violations have greater consequences like fines and imprisonment.  Civil lawsuits have less severe consequences like compensating the affected employees.

Other Essential Information About Labor Laws in Georgia

Here are a few other details you need to know about labor laws in Georgia:

Resources and Further Reading on Georgia Labor Laws

If you wish to learn more about Georgia Labor Laws, here are some resources and government links that you can use:

The Bottom Line on Georgia Labor Laws

The Georgia labor laws are instrumental in maintaining a healthy relationship between employers and employees. They’re generally meant to help protect workers from discrimination, ensure fair compensation, and keep the working environment safe.

Unlike many states across the U.S., Georgia’s employment laws are less stringent, but this doesn’t mean employers can get away with employment injustices. As an employer, it’s your duty to keep yourself updated on all the labor laws to create a good working environment for your employees.  Employees should also keep themselves updated so they know when their rights are being violated, enabling them to take the right legal action.

For many businesses, the only real solution to compliance challenges is great software. The right business-management software tends to come with built-in compliance and recordkeeping rules, regardless of your industry, how many employees you have, what they do, or how widely they’re dispersed across the state (or country).

If you operate a construction or field services company, we humbly suggest trying Workyard for your compliance needs.

Workyard is built around the industry’s most accurate GPS tracking and geofencing technology, which ensures payroll accuracy across your workforce, no matter which job site you send them to or when you need them to work there. Workyard’s timesheet tracking system also comes with built-in federal and state overtime rules, as well as adjustable break rules you can customize at the employee level.

Workyard’s intuitive scheduling dashboard makes it easy to direct your workforce to the jobs you need done, based on their skill sets, their locations, their availability, and (of course) their weekly time worked – so you can avoid unnecessary overtime payments and reduce reimbursible travel expenses.

All of these tools work together to save you money. Minimize payroll waste, ensure regulatory compliance without lifting a finger, accurately assess project costs in real time, and pay your team with ease thanks to seamless payroll processing integrations.

And best of all, you can try it free for 14 days, so you can be sure it’s the right solution for your company. Just click here (or the buttons below) to get started today!

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