Table of contents
What’s new in 2023
- Vaping prohibited in workplaces
- Voting leave amendments
- Paid sick leave to care for family members extended
Wage and Hour Laws
FLSA applies to any business engaged in interstate commerce (goods or services that cross state lines). It also applies to any business with annual gross sales exceeding $500,000 or those operating a school or health care facility.
Most Georgia employers are subject to FLSA requirements, meaning they must provide the federal minimum wage rather than the state minimum wage.
Exclusions from Georgia’s minimum wage
Georgia employers subject to the FLSA must pay the federal minimum wage to all non-exempt employees.
For employers not covered by the FLSA, the requirement to pay Georgia’s minimum wage doesn’t apply to the following:
- Businesses with annual sales equal to or less than $40,000.
- Employers of 5 or fewer employees.
- Employers of domestic employees.
- Agriculture employers that are farm owners, sharecroppers, and land renters.
- Employees paid in part or wholly from tips.
- Employees enrolled in high school or college.
- Newspaper carriers.
- Children and mentally disabled adults in nonprofit care facilities who are paid at least $10,000 a year.
Tipped minimum wage
Georgia follows federal laws allowing employers to pay a direct wage of $2.13 per hour.
Employees must receive at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour when their direct wage is combined with tips they receive from customers. Otherwise, the employer must increase the direct pay to make up the difference.
Employees in Georgia are entitled to overtime pay in line with federal FLSA requirements. All non-exempt employees must be paid 1.5 times their regular pay rate for any hours worked beyond 40 hours per week.
Exemptions from Overtime Laws
Georgia follows FLSA requirements for determining which employees are exempt from overtime pay requirements. An FLSA-exempt employee must meet criteria related to pay level and job duties criteria. No overtime pay is due if the employee meets all criteria.
There are no state laws in Georgia that further define overtime requirements.
Meal and rest breaks
Employers in Georgia aren’t obligated to provide meal or rest breaks to workers. Still, many Georgia employers choose to offer breaks and often adopt these into company policy.
Short rest breaks under 30 minutes must be paid to meet FLSA requirements. Longer meal breaks may be unpaid if they last 30 minutes or longer and the worker is free from work duties during the break.
Every employer in Georgia is required to maintain employment records that include the following:
- Name of each employee
- Address of each employee
- Occupation of each employee
- Daily and weekly hours worked by each employee
- Wages paid to each employee
Employers must keep employment records for at least 1 year from the date of the record.
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Employee Compensation and Benefits
Final paycheck laws
There’s no state law regarding final paychecks by private employers in Georgia.
As a result, there’s no obligation in Georgia to pay an employee when their employment terminates. Instead, employers must follow federal requirements to issue a final paycheck by the next regular pay date.
Georgia does have a narrow requirement for final pay applying only when an employee has died. In these circumstances, employers may send final pay of $2,500 or less to any of the following in order:
- A beneficiary named by the deceased employee in writing.
- The employee’s surviving spouse (if there’s no named beneficiary).
- The guardian of a minor child (if there’s no surviving spouse).
Reporting time pay
Georgia has no regulations requiring reporting time pay or call-in pay. Employers are obligated to pay employees only for hours worked.
Employee scheduling laws
There are no laws in Georgia limiting how employers may schedule their employees.
Georgia has also adopted laws prohibiting local governments, such as cities, from regulating how employers schedule employees.
Payday frequency and method
Employees in Georgia must be paid at least twice per month. The employer can set the dates for payment, though the month must be divided into at least 2 equal periods.
Certain types of employees may be paid on a monthly or annual basis, including:
- Farming, sawmill, or turpentine industry employees.
- Manual, mechanical, or clerical labor workers.
- Government officials, superintendents, or department heads.
Pay may be issued through any of these methods:
- Credit to a payroll card account.
- Direct deposit (requires employee consent).
Employers that credit a payroll card account must give the employee a written explanation of any fees associated with the account at the time of hiring or at least 30 days before the account becomes available.
Georgia has no laws requiring employers to provide pay stubs to employees. There’s also no federal law requiring pay stubs.
Wage deductions and garnishments
There are no regulations limiting wage deductions or garnishments in Georgia. As a result, employers may deduct or garnish an employee’s wages as long as it isn’t for an illegal reason.
An illegal reason for a wage deduction would include violating FLSA standards. Under the FLSA, deductions made for the employer’s benefit may not cause the employee’s pay to drop below minimum wage. A deduction for the employer’s benefit includes the cost of uniforms or tools used in the employee’s work.
All Georgia employers with 3 or more employees are subject to the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act. This law requires employers to secure a workers’ compensation insurance policy through a private carrier. The policy must enable the employer to provide medical and disability benefits to employees injured on the job.
Employers can opt to become self-insured instead of purchasing an insurance policy. To become self-insured, the employer must apply with the State Board of Workers Compensation. The application must include 3 years of audited financial statements. Employers approved for self-insured status must file a surety bond or letter of credit in the Georgia Self-Insurers Guaranty Trust Fund.
After a workplace injury or illness, employees must report the incident to their employer within 30 days. Not reporting an incident in time can result in a loss of benefits.
An employer’s insurance company has 21 days to investigate a work incident and file a claim (Form WC-14). The employee may also initiate a claim directly within 1 year of the incident.
Most employers in Georgia must secure an unemployment insurance tax account to benefit workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own.
An employer meeting any of the following criteria is required to pay unemployment tax:
- Any employer with a quarterly payroll of at least $1,500 or at least 1 employee in 20 different weeks during a calendar year.
- Agriculture employer with at least $20,000 in quarterly payroll or 10 or more employees on any day during 20 different weeks during a calendar year. (Food and lodging costs don’t count toward the quarterly payroll total.)
- Domestic employers with at least $1,000 in quarterly payroll.
Employers pay the entire cost of unemployment insurance. They can’t pass this cost on to employees.
To set up an unemployment insurance tax account, employers complete an application form (Form DOL-1A) and return it to the Georgia Department of Labor. They should submit the form immediately following their business’ first payroll.
To be eligible for unemployment benefits, an unemployed worker must show the following:
- They’re a United States citizen or a non-citizen legally present in the United States.
- They’ve earned enough money during a qualifying base period.
- They’re unemployed through no fault of their own.
- They are able to work, available for work, and are actively seeking work.
The base period and income requirements for qualifying are complicated calculations with many variables. An unemployment benefits calculator can help individuals determine eligibility.
An eligible worker is paid benefits weekly based on their earnings during the base period. The minimum weekly benefit is $55, and the maximum is $365. The number of weeks a worker may claim varies from 6 to 26, depending on the worker’s circumstances.
Eligibility and work search activities must be certified weekly for an employee to continue receiving benefits.
Workplace Rights and Protections
Discrimination and harassment
Georgia has adopted several laws that prohibit discrimination and harassment. Many are similar to existing federal laws, though some provide additional employee protections.
- Fair Employment Practices Act. Applies to all Georgia employers with 15 or more employees. This law prohibits discrimination in employment practices based on sex, race, color, national origin, religion, age, or disability.
- Sex Discrimination in Employment Act. This law is similar to the federal Equal Pay Act. It prohibits discriminatory pay practices based on sex. Exceptions are made for pay practices that result in differing pay based on seniority, merit, quantity or quality measures, or other factors unrelated to sex.
- General Age Discrimination Law. Employers may not discriminate against people between 40 and 70 years solely because of their age. Exceptions are made when the reasonable demands of a job require an age distinction.
- Equal Employment for Persons with Disabilities Code. This law is similar to federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on disability. It prohibits such discrimination concerning pay, hours, and terms of employment. Exceptions exist when the employee’s disability restricts their ability to engage in their job. The law also prohibits retaliation against employees for claiming they’ve suffered disability discrimination.
Atlanta anti-discrimination ordinance
The city of Atlanta has adopted an anti-discrimination ordinance that applies to all employers with 10 or more employees in the city.
It prohibits discrimination in employment on the same grounds as the statewide Fair Employment Practices Act—but also based on creed, domestic relationship status, parental status, familial status, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
Filing a complaint
Employees who believe they’ve suffered employment discrimination can file a complaint with the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity. Alternatively, they can file a complaint with one of the Georgia offices of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The Atlanta Human Relations Commission accepts complaints regarding employment discrimination in the city online, by email, via mail, and in person.
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|Covered by GA Law?
|Leave Law Details
|𐄂 Family and Medical Leave
|The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requirements apply in Georgia.
|✔ Paid Sick Leave
|Yes, in very limited circumstances
|Georgia doesn’t require employers to offer paid sick leave for individual use.
Georgia’s Kin Care Law requires some employers to allow employees to use up to 5 days of earned sick leave to care for immediate family members.
The law applies only to employers that:Have 25 or more employees. Offer paid sick leave voluntarily.
To qualify, employees must work a minimum of 30 hours per week.
Employers offering paid sick leave by policy or contract must comply with their own rules.
|𐄂 Paid Family Leave
|Georgia doesn’t require employers to offer paid family leave.
Employers offering paid family leave by policy or contract must comply with their own rules.
|𐄂 Family Bereavement Leave
|Georgia doesn’t require employers to offer bereavement leave.
Employers offering bereavement leave by policy or contract must comply with their own rules.
|✔ Military Leave
|Any employee called into active federal or state military service is entitled to unpaid leave during their service period.
Additional unpaid leave up to 6 months in any 4-year span is protected for training.
Employees returning from military leave are entitled to full reinstatement to their position unless doing so would be impossible due to the employer’s circumstances.
|✔ Jury Duty Leave
|An employer may not penalize an employee (including discipline or discharge from employment) for absences due to responding to a subpoena or jury summons.
The protection from penalty doesn’t apply to employees attending a judicial proceeding because they’ve been charged with a crime.
Employers can require employees to provide reasonable notice of their absence.
|✔ Voting Leave
|An employee who gives reasonable notice must be granted unpaid time up to 2 hours to vote.
The employer can specify which hours the employee may use for this purpose.
No time off is required if one of the following is true:The polls open at least 2 hours before the employee’s shift. The polls close at least 2 hours after the employee’s shift.
|𐄂 Pregnancy and Parental Leave
|Georgia doesn’t require employers to offer pregnancy or parental leave.
Employers must comply with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
Employers offering pregnancy or parental leave by policy or contract must comply with their own rules.
|𐄂 Vacation and Personal Leave
|Georgia doesn’t require employers to offer vacation or personal leave.
Employers offering vacation or personal leave by policy or contract must comply with their own rules.
Child Labor Laws
The child labor laws in Georgia restrict working hours and conditions for all minors under 18.
Minors under 12 aren’t permitted to work except in agriculture and domestic service or when directly employed by a parent or guardian.
Minors under 16 may not work in any hazardous environment. Hazardous work environments include:
- Laundry facilities.
Minors under 16 may also only work in an occupation listed as permitted by the Georgia Commissioner of Labor. Approved occupations include:
- Office and clerical work.
- Creative or intellectual work, such as computer programming or playing a musical instrument.
- Cooking, with exclusions for hazardous cooking equipment like deep fat fryers.
- Price marking, assembling orders, packing, and shelving.
- Bagging customer orders.
- Errand and delivery work.
- Cleaning work, with exclusions for dangerous power equipment.
- Kitchen work.
- Cleaning kitchen equipment that doesn’t involve contact with temperatures above 100°F.
- Cleaning produce or wrapping and stocking meats and produce outside freezers or meat coolers.
- Loading and unloading motor vehicles of light tools.
- Lifeguard work.
- Limited work at a gas station or mechanic business, such as dispensing gasoline or car cleaning.
- Approved career exploration and work-study programs.
Minors under 16 may not work between 9pm and 6am. Exceptions are made for employment to sell or deliver newspapers in residential areas.
In addition, minors under 16 cannot work more than 4 hours on a school day or 8 hours on a non-school day. They may not work more than 40 hours a week.
Any minor between 12 and 16 must provide a certificate establishing their age and physical fitness. Typically, a school official issues the certificate. A parent or guardian may issue the certificate if the child is home-schooled.
Minors between 14 and 17 must also provide a certificate establishing their age and physical fitness if they work in lawn care jobs during school vacation months.
Georgia’s child labor laws are criminal statutes that define violations as misdemeanors.
Workplace Safety and Health
Georgia doesn’t regulate workplace safety and health with state laws. Instead, the Georgia Department of Public Health tracks workplace safety metrics and recommends actions for employers to improve safety efforts.
Georgia employers are required to follow the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), including recordkeeping and reporting requirements.
Employees can report violations of the OSH Act to a Georgia OSHA office.
Labor Union Regulations
Georgia is a right-to-work state. This means employers can’t require employees to become labor union or labor organization members—even if that organization represents employees in the workplace. Employers also can’t condition employment on an employee’s payment of union dues.
Under Georgia law, a union may call a strike only after giving the employer 30 days’ written notice. Picketing in front of an employer’s business is illegal if it obstructs or interferes with entrance to a place of employment.
Labor disputes can be referred to a Georgia branch of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Employment Contracts and Severance
Employment contract laws
Georgia is an “at-will” employment state.
Most employers and employees in Georgia can end the employment relationship for any reason or no reason, so long as it isn’t otherwise prohibited by law.
However, the Georgia Fair Dismissal Act limits the at-will rule and provides guidelines for terminating employment for public education employees.
Employers may need to fulfill employment policies promising benefits, like payout of accrued vacation hours, when an employee is terminated.
Non-compete agreements are generally allowed in Georgia under the Restrictive Covenants Act. They must be reasonable in:
- Geographic area.
- Scope of prohibited activity.
Non-compete agreements are also only enforceable against certain employee types, including:
- Managers supervising 2 or more employees and who have hiring and firing authority or the ability to make recommendations for hiring and firing.
- Key employees or professionals.
Non-solicitation agreements are generally allowed in Georgia but must be restricted by a reasonable geographic area.
Georgia employers aren’t required to offer severance pay in any form.
However, if an employer offers severance by employment contract or in their policies, they must follow their own rules.
Additional Laws That Might Apply to You
Immigration status for employees of government entities and contractors
Georgia’s Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act (IIREA) requires local governments, such as cities and counties, to verify the immigration status of all new employees.
This requirement also extends to private employers if they work on behalf of covered government entities through a contract or subcontract.
To bid on a government project, businesses must submit an affidavit indicating that they’ve registered for and will use the federal e-Verify program to validate the immigration status of all employees.
Failing to comply with this law could cause employers to lose bids on government projects or become ineligible to renew their permit to operate a business in Georgia.
Drug testing and drug-free workplace
Georgia allows drug testing of employees and provides some incentives to establish drug-free workplace processes.
Employers aren’t prohibited from terminating employment of an at-will employee if they test positive on a random drug test without showing objective signs of impairment.
Employers that establish a drug-free workplace program meeting certain requirements are eligible for workers’ compensation insurance discounts. Eligibility requirements include:
- A written policy statement.
- An established substance abuse testing program.
- Employee assistance resources.
- Employee education.
- Supervisor training.
Marijuana use and possession
Georgia law allows the use of prescribed medical marijuana. However, employers aren’t required to allow employees to use or possess marijuana. Employers may adopt a zero-tolerance policy to prohibit marijuana usage both at work and off-duty.
Employers must provide reasonable paid break time for employees to express breast milk at work. The space must be private, within the work site, and not a restroom.
Employers with fewer than 50 employees may be excluded from this requirement if compliance would cause undue hardship.
The Georgia Whistleblower Act makes it illegal to take negative employment action against a public employee for identifying fraud, waste, or abuse in government activities. The law doesn’t extend to private business.
COVID-19-related laws and regulations
Georgia no longer has any active laws or regulations regarding COVID-19.
Navigating Legal Issues and Resources
The following government agencies can provide further guidance on employment laws and programs in Georgia:
- State Board of Workers Compensation
- Georgia Department of Labor
- Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity
- Atlanta Human Relations Commission
- Georgia Department of Public Health
Georgia Legal Aid also provides free legal assistance and resources to workers in Georgia.
Georgia labor laws often overlap with federal requirements, but there are still sometimes conflicts between city, state, and federal laws. Speaking with an attorney is the most reliable resource to ensure you understand employer responsibilities and employee rights.
The information presented on this website about Georgia labor laws in the United States is intended to be accurate and informative. However, laws and regulations can change and may vary depending on individual circumstances. While we have made every effort to ensure the information provided is up-to-date and reliable, we cannot guarantee its completeness or accuracy. Therefore, we strongly recommend that readers seek guidance from their legal department or a qualified attorney to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Please note that we cannot be held liable for any actions taken or not taken based on the information presented on this website.